Sebastian Hedley-Noble The Hockey Writers
Avalanche at a Glance: Patrick Roy and Defense
Avalanche at a Glance is back and pumped up for the new season. This edition, Kevin Goff and I will touch on the recent news of Patrick Roy resigning from the Colorado Avalanche, as well as their new-look defense.
Thoughts on Patrick Roy’s Departure
SEBASTIAN HEDLEY-NOBLE: Patrick Roy shocked the hockey world recently, announcing his resignation from the Avalanche. Fans were shocked, media were shocked, my dog was shocked, the players were shocked, and even Joe Sakic was shocked.
Why would Roy choose to do this and more importantly, why now? We could speculate day and night about that, but the bottom line is Roy, it seems, didn’t agree with certain decisions this off-season, and apparently that was enough to call it quits.
Patrick Roy announces he is stepping down as @Avalanche head coach and VP of hockey ops with this statement: pic.twitter.com/CR8wTUIP6k
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) August 11, 2016
After Roy released his statement in very rare fashion, Sakic then had to scramble and put together a conference call on the situation.
I have to say there are both pros and cons to Roy leaving. On one hand he was loved by his players, and most of all, fans. He also helped bring the Avalanche back from the dead during his first year as head coach, winning the Central Division title and Jack Adams for coach of the year. On the other hand, if you look at the last two seasons, he didn’t get the job done, not good enough, bottom line.
Defense being the main, ongoing issue with the team, it seemed Roy didn’t have a sound tactical plan for the back-end. I won’t get into all the numbers and fancy stats – just know they weren’t satisfactory for this team in any shape or form, and that’s putting it nicely.
So just like the organization, everyone from the fans to the players has to move on, no matter how much they liked Roy. What’s done is done and the Avalanche have already begun their search for a replacement. Let’s hope whoever it is, they’ll be able to get the Avalanche together on the same page and fast. Some intriguing names out there right now include Jacques Martin, Dale Hunter, Marc Crawford, and Bob Hartley amongst many others. Sakic did state the coach would be hired from outside the organization and that’s all we really know right now.
Roy’s contribution during his first season will not be forgotten, especially if the Avalanche can turn into the team they want to be in the near future. His strategy of pulling his goalies much earlier than anyone else will continue to be used around the NHL. They were nothing but a memory of a powerhouse before he and Sakic came in and took control, and for that we should thank him.
He finished on his terms, which I guess is something we all should have seen coming in the end. What are your thoughts Kevin?
KEVIN GOFF: Well we obviously can’t start with anything other than what just happened with Patrick Roy. I, like most people, was completely stunned by this. The statement that he released definitely raised my eyebrows and makes me think a couple of things. First, he wanted to shake up the roster and didn’t get his way. Considering how the Avalanche have largely stood pat in the offseason, he probably wanted to move one or more of the core players.
Second, it has the definite feel of just taking his ball and going home. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t fault him for leaving because of philosophical differences with the front office; that actually makes perfect sense. What bothers me is the timing. There’s no way that he wasn’t feeling this way earlier in the offseason and now he chooses a month before training camp to walk? That leaves the team with a month to find a new head coach, with essentially a completely bare cupboard from which to choose. Again, the logic is fine, but he did very wrong by the Avalanche with this one, especially Joe Sakic who has done absolutely nothing but constantly stand up for Roy.
In the long run, however, I feel this could be a good thing for the Avalanche. Roy was clearly struggling with coaching at the NHL level, though he has helped the team take steps forward. It’s a very sour end to his coaching career in Denver.
New Look Defense
SEBASTIAN HEDLEY-NOBLE: There’s been a bit of an overhaul when it comes to the back-end for Colorado, and that my friends is a good thing.
Most of the change this off-season has been on the defensive end of things, because well, they needed it badly. Getting rid of arguably their worst performers and replacing them with solid improvements over the summer should definitely see this improve.
Leaving the team were Nick Holden, Nate Guenin, Zach Redmond, Brad Stuart, and Andrew Bodnarchuk. Their replacements are the young guns Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov, along with off-season acquisitions Patrick Wiercioch and Fedor Tyutin, and last but not least Eric Gelinas, who was brought in via trade before the deadline last season but did not see much ice-time due to injury. That’s quite the change, as only three regulars from last season are still wearing Burgundy and Blue. Those, of course would be, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Francois Beauchemin.
As far as the pairings go, I’d like to see something different, and yes risky. Instead of Francois Beauchemin and Erik Johnson, I’d like to see top prospect Bigras with EJ instead. Beauchemin is not getting any faster, and should see less minutes as he ages, though still very serviceable in the top six. Sakic is expecting big things from Bigras and Zadorov, and so am I, this is their season to establish themselves as full-time NHL defenseman.
Here’s what I’d like to see when opening night comes around:
- Bigras – Johnson
- Zadorov – Barrie
- Beauchemin – Gelinas
HEALTHY SCRATCHES = Wiercioch/Tyutin
It was very difficult for me to choose between Gelinas and Wiercioch, but since I’ve seen more of Gelinas, I’ll stick him on that third pairing for now. That could easily change come training camp however. Tyutin won’t be just coming in to sit either, it’ll be a competition for sure. One thing that is clear, Colorado now have a deeper and more solid group on defense than we’ve seen in many years.
What say you on the new look defense Kevin? As I did for sticks and whistles, let’s also see your preferred pairings for opening night, plus who you think will stick around as the seventh and eighth defenseman.
KEVIN GOFF: Their changes on the defensive side of things have made them a better team. They managed to get rid of a lot rid of a lot of dead weight, much of which they weren’t really using to begin with.
Guenin and Holden are gone, thank goodness. Bodnarchuk and Redmond are gone and Stuart has been bought out. We should also expect Gelinas to be back and healthy this season. There is reason to be hopeful with this new group as all of the additions not only have solid NHL experience, their most recent possession stats have all been pretty positive.
The other question is who will the new coach be and what type of system will they implement? Based off of the results of the past couple of seasons, it’s hard to believe that a new coach would come in and make the defensive zone coverage any worse than it has been. Solidifying the defense should go a long way towards sending the Avalanche back to the post season.
Here’s how I see the defense shaping out:
- Zadorov – Johnson
- Beauchemin – Barrie
- Bigras – Wiercioch
HEALTHY SCRATCHES = Gelinas/Tyutin.
Thanks for reading this edition of Avalanche at a Glance, if you have any comments don’t hesitate to leave them below!
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