Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy returned to Montreal to meet the Canadiens for the first time as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche. He didn't win, but he still departed a success.
The day after St. Patrick's Day there was no luck for Patrick Roy in his return to Montreal. His Colorado Avalanche struggled to win one for the coach. Jean-Sebastien Giguere was not very good in goal and neither was his supporting cast at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.
Don't forget the Canadiens took a pass on him in the summer of 2012. New Colorado director of hockey operations Joe Sakic, however, was not afraid to bring in the emotional Hockey Hall of Famer as his coach after eight seasons running the Quebec Remparts.
Sakic's move has paid swift dividends. The Avalanche, under Roy, has undergone one of the best turnarounds since the NHL adopted the shootout coming out of the 2004-05 lockout. Here are the top-five ascensions during this period:
Colorado (from 2012-13 to 2013-14) +24 - 29th to 5th
Montreal (from 2011-12 to 2012-13) +24 - 28th to 4th
Anaheim (from 2011-12 to 2012-13) +22 - 25th to 3rd
Phoenix (from 2008-09 to 2009-10) +21 - 25th to 4th
Pittsburgh (from 2005-06 to 2006-07) +21 - 29th to 8th
"I played with him as a teammate," Sakic said. "He is a tremendous leader. I knew he was a fiery competitor and I knew what he was doing [coaching junior hockey] in Quebec City and the time he spent coaching younger players and how well he did.
"For me, I thought he would be the perfect coach for a younger team. He's been great with them. Our players have been buying in. It has been a great relationship and I could not be happier."
Another who was not surprised by the Avalanche's success under Roy was former Colorado coach Marc Crawford, who won a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 1996 with Roy as his goalie
"Patrick was truly one of the smartest, most instinctive players I have ever had," Crawford said. "He knew more about winning and what it took to win than anybody else I've ever coached. For this reason I am not surprised that he is such a good coach.
"He has worked at his craft and he has learned along the way and I must say he will continue to learn on the job. In the end, as a head coach, you are paid to make decisions. It's Patrick's instincts that give him the confidence to act quickly. He won't always be perfect, but he will never be guilty of waiting too long or doing nothing."
The return to Montreal over the past two days was interesting. There was no doubt Roy had put the Dec. 2, 1995 incident behind him, when he felt then Montreal coach Mario Tremblay kept him in goal too long in the 11-1 thumping at home to Detroit.
You know what followed, when he finally was pulled, Roy stepped past Tremblay to tell then Canadiens president Ronald Corey that he had played his last game for the Habs.
It's apparent Roy has been forgiven by the Canadiens faithful. They cheered when he had his No. 33 retired on Nov. 22, 2008 and when he was part of the club's centennial celebrations a year later as well as in his return with Colorado on Tuesday.
Roy, after all, played big parts in Montreal's last two Stanley Cup championships in 1985-96 and 1992-93 before winning two more with the Avalanche.
But because he has steered the Avalanche to success this season, there was doubt and discussion over the past 48 hours as to whether Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin made the right decision in choosing Michel Therrien over Roy. The Habs have been pretty good under Therrien, too. Therrien just happens to be Roy's former Sherbrooke Canadiens teammate when they won the Calder Cup on 1985.
It simply didn't go Roy's way on Tuesday, but that doesn't mean he didn't appreciate the effort of his banged up team.
"Listen, [Ryan] O'Reilly hurt himself last game, but he wanted to play," Roy said. "[Paul] Stastny came back [from an injury]. I knew what they were doing. I've been in this league long enough. I have a lot of respect for my players and I appreciate what these guys have done.
"But I didn't want them to feel to pressure to win this one for their coach. I wanted them to win it for our hockey team. It's all about our team. I didn't want to put myself in front of the team and it was important for me to let them know. I'm already proud of them and I'm already happy to be part of this partnership with them. I didn't need a special night."
Tim WharnsbyTim's worked the sports beat at The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun, specializing in Canada's one true sporting obsession - hockey. He knows the players, the coaches, the backroom boys and most importantly, the fans. That's what he brings to his stories. Knowledge, fairness and understanding are trademarks of a Wharnsby story. That's what you will get here as he writes for CBCSports.ca.
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