Kenneth Ferguson The Hockey Writers
2 Years of Patrick Roy
May 23, 2015 was the two year anniversary of the return of Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche. This stint in Colorado would have Roy behind the bench as the new head coach and vice president of hockey operations. In the two years since “St. Patrick’s” return things have gone quite well for the Avalanche. Things have not been perfect by any stretch but the future sure looks promising.
Coach Roy could not have dreamt up a more perfect scenario for his first game behind the bench when the Avalanche faced the Anaheim Ducks on October 2, 2013. A 6-1 ambush of the Ducks was nearly complete when a questionable hit on Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon set Roy off. Things heated up in front of both benches after the final horn sounded and what happened next made headlines across the hockey world.
While Roy admitted he had not planned for the stanchion to tip it was exactly what a young hockey club needed to see from its new head coach. This spur of the moment interaction showed the coaches passion and that he would defend his players no matter what that called for or what it resulted in. That win against the Ducks was the first in the month of October which the Avalanche finished with a record of 10-1.
The Avalanche would finish Roy’s rookie season with a record of: 52 wins, 22 loses, and eight overtime loses. As a result the 112 points they collected in the standings resulted in a Central Division title and a playoff berth for the first time in four years.
1st Round Busts Resurrected
Perhaps the most noticeable difference since Roy became head coach is in some of the players that have excelled under him. Before Roy took office the Avalanche acquired two former first round picks in two separate blockbuster trades and both were turning into what appeared to be busts.
The first was a trade with the St. Louis Blues that sent Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and a second round pick to St. Louis while Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a first round pick came to Colorado. While McClement was a nice addition to the penalty kill it was Johnson that gave the Avalanche the center piece they were looking for to give them the best return. In his first two and a half seasons after the trade however, this did not happen.
In this time Johnson scored seven goals in 126, yes 126, games. When Roy got to Colorado he told Johnson maybe the simplest thing a coach could have told him. That was-don’t worry about being a number one pick, don’t worry about living up to peoples expectations, just play hockey. Johnson took these words of wisdom to the bank.
In the 134 games Johnson has played under Roy he has produced 22 goals and 42 assists. These numbers would have been higher had Johnson not gotten hurt right before this years all star game which he was suppose to attend. The resulting surgery would cause Johnson to miss the all star weekend and the remainder of the 2014-2015 season.
Most could have guessed that coach Roy’s biggest impact would have been between the pipes for the Avalanche. One of the first staff changes the Avalanche made after Roy came to town was hire his former goalie coach Francois Allaire. This move brought the game of current number one goalie Semyon Varlamov to a peak.
With Varlamov, the Avalanche once again acquired a former first round pick via trade. This one was a little unusual in that the trade was completed on July 1, the first day of free agency in 2011. With free agent goalies available the Avalanche went an unusual route and acquired Varlamov from the Washington Capitals for a 2012 first round pick.
In the first season Varlamov played under Roy he recorded 41 wins in 63 games. In the past two seasons Varlamov also reordered seven shutouts; none of which were more impressive than a 54 save shutout against the Chicago Blackhawks. Varlamov is also arguably (but just barely) the best goalie in the NHL in the shootout.
Varlamovs play resulted in a a rich five year contract extension signed in January of 2014. He is now tied to the Avalanche through the 2018-2019 season and for the first time in a long time the Avalanche have a long term no doubt number one goaltender. This is the first time this has happened since Roy retired.
What the Future holds?
The original contract that Roy signed was a four year deal with no money guaranteed. At the halfway point of his contract Roy has a record of 91-53-20. This includes a division championship, one playoff appearance and the 2014 Jack Adams award as the league’s top coach.
If things go just as well in the last two years of Roy’s deal he will remain the coach of the Avalanche for years to come. The addition of Roy behind the bench has help solidify what the Avalanche are working towards, which is another Stanley Cup ring that Roy can use to plug his ears.
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