MONTREAL – After putting up 112 points and winning the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year in his first season behind an NHL bench, what can Patrick Roy possibly do for an encore?
Even a coach with Roy's self-confidence doesn't see his second season with the gifted young Colorado Avalanche going that well.
“There are a lot of coaches that are better than me, but I believe I'll continue to learn,” Roy said Thursday. “And the worst part of this is, I'm sure I'm going to be a better coach along the way and I'm probably never going to win the Jack Adams again.
“It was a great year. It was fun, but now it's behind us.”
The Avalanche are on a two-game swing through Roy's old patch, with games Thursday night in Montreal, where he starred for the Canadiens for 10 seasons, and Friday night in Quebec City, where he built the Remparts into a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League power after his Hall of Fame playing career ended.
Roy was lured away last season to become head coach and vice president of hockey operations for the Avalanche, who he helped win two Stanley Cups after his bitter parting with the Canadiens in 1996.
The fiery Roy's impact was felt immediately on a team stacked with budding stars like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and 2013 first overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon.
The Avs finished second overall in the Western Conference and tied a franchise record with 52 victories, although they lost in seven games to Minnesota in the first round of playoffs.
Roy told his players at the start of camp not to focus on trying to match the 112 points, but to keep improving their overall game.
“We're playing in a tough conference, and it's pretty easy to be humble in that conference,” he said. “With the quality of the teams, you know that to make the playoffs you have to be outstanding all year.
“Last year we were lucky and didn't have many injuries. This is a big factor. We could have as good or better a year than last year and not have 112 points. We want to make sure we continue to get better. Our young guys need to continue to grow. This is how we're going to measure ourselves, not with the number of points.”
Roy wants to continue to play entertaining, offence-oriented hockey, but to improve on defence as well. He understands the Avalanche's style leads to a lot of shots against, but he feels if they keep shooters more to the outside and cut down on quality scoring chances they will be a better team.
The Avs had five players with 60 or more points last season, although one of them, Paul Stastny, left as a free agent for St. Louis.
Roy opted to fill the void with older, more experienced players to provide leadership for his young squad. Jarome Iginla was signed as a free agent, and P.A. Parenteau was traded to Montreal for veteran centre Daniel Briere.
“We were not looking for guys that necessarily be the top players on the team, but we were looking for veterans who could help our younger players to continue to grow,” he said.
Parenteau filled a need in Montreal, which lost right wingers Thomas Vanek and Brian Gionta in the off-season.
The diminutive Briere did not get a lot of ice time in Montreal playing mostly on the fourth line, but he was best in the playoffs, particularly in a tough seven-game win over rival Boston. The Avs intend to use him on their third line.
Roy said the deal was good for both clubs.
“You want players that are happy with you,” he said. “I'm not saying P.A. wasn't happy with us, but this year it would have been tough for him to play on the top two lines and I think he would have been unhappy.
“This trade will serve him very well. He can play on the top two lines in Montreal, play on the power play. He's a very good hockey player and I'm sure the people in Montreal will love him.”
Briere and another former Canadien, Alex Tanguay, were not in the lineup in Montreal but were slated to play in Quebec City, which will be an Avs' home game.
Briere, a Gatineau, Que., native, had only good things to say about is one season in Montreal, which included a trip to the Eastern Conference final.
“I feel fortunate that I had the chance to play here and wear that uniform for a season,” he said. “The playoff run we had, and winning in seven games in a Original Six series with Boston was really cool. So there were a lot of good memories.”
Briere rejoined the team after spending two days in Philadelphia with his son Caeren, who broke a thigh bone playing hockey and underwent surgery on Monday.
Duchene, who led the Avs with 70 points last season, likes having the new veterans around.
“They've been through the battles,” he said. “They're looking to win the Cup and they saw us as a team that has a chance. It's good for us young guys. You can learn from the best.”
Roy said the veterans were excited to see pre-season games scheduled for Montreal and Quebec City, which is where the franchise started out from 1979 to 1995 before moving to Denver.
So was Duchene.
“I love coming into the Bell Centre and looking at the banners up top,” he said. “It's pretty cool playing under Maurice Richard's banner. He's the reason I wear no. 9.”