Then-GM Savard was fired after the Canadiens lost their first four games of the 1995-96 season by a combined 20-4. On Oct. 15, just before being told to pack, he was finishing a deal that would send Roy to Colorado for Owen Nolan and Stephane Fiset.
In an interview that will air during the Rangers/Senators Hockey Night in Canada afternoon game tomorrow (CBC, 3 p.m. ET), Roy said he knew about the deal.
Thursday, Savard laughed at that, saying, "(Avalanche GM) Pierre Lacroix was his former agent, so I'm sure Patrick did."
(According to Michel Roy's book about Patrick, Lacroix called Savard to close the deal, and was basically told, "I can't do it. I'm fired.")
That's probably the best thing that ever happened to Savard, which is saying something about a guy who won 10 Stanley Cups (eight as a player, two as GM), the 1969 Conn Smythe Trophy and the Summit Series. People don't remember him as the guy who traded Patrick Roy.
Roy claimed Corey killed the deal, but Savard disputed that, not certain the president even knew about the talks. Savard also stressed that the goalie did not ask to be traded. The GM felt "it was time for a change" for both Roy and the organization. What's interesting about this whole scenario is that, looking back, both Roy and Savard - independently of each other - said the Canadiens were "only one or two players" from being better than the Florida Panthers, who represented the Eastern Conference in the 1996 Stanley Cup Final.
It's hard to see, though, how that could be the case without Roy, who admitted that it would have been better to leave Montreal under those circumstances than in the five-alarm blaze that followed. But it gives new context to what was going through his mind that incredible December night, when he stormed into Corey's face and napalmed his relationship with the organization.
He knew there was a deal to be made, and, if this was the way the organization was going, he was ready to accept it.
It hasn't happened too much in their history, but the Canadiens were a gong show at the time. Following Savard's firing, the team had five days off between back-to-back Friday/Saturday games against the Islanders and Maple Leafs. Despite the layoff, there was no new management team or coaching staff in place for the game in Long Island. With assistants Steve Shutt and Jacques Laperriere running the bench, they lost 2-0.
Apparently, the plan was the same for the Toronto game, with the new hires to be revealed on the Sunday. But, to their credit, Houle, Tremblay and Yvon Cournoyer - who was to join the coaching staff - spoke up about the ridiculousness of the situation and were installed that morning. The Canadiens won their first of the season, 4-3, with the winner coming in the last moments. (Dick Irvin, inducted Thursday night into the CBC Sports Hall of Fame, remembered that Pat Burns walked across the ice to the dressing room in defeat when that goal was scored, even though there was still one second remaining.)
Montreal won its next five, and 11 of 13, before his final game ended an 0-4-1 stretch.
There is no shortage of opinions on Patrick Roy. He is either loved or hated, nothing in between. Clearly, he knew his former agent was trying to trade for him and his current coach was trying to break him. A stronger GM might have sent everyone to their rooms without dinner, trying harder to see if things could work out.
A stronger GM, like, say, Bob Gainey.
Gainey rarely revealed raw emotion the way Roy did, but, when it comes to hockey, both men care about winning first, everything else second. I can't help but wonder if this ceremony is Gainey's way of showing that he understood why Roy went ballistic that night.
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