ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Patrick Roy has been way more composed than combustible on the bench through the Colorado Avalanche’s sizzling start to the season.
Then again, there hasn’t been much that has gone wrong for the goalie-turned-coach who is well-known for his fiery personality.
Sure, there was that meltdown in his first game in charge when he nearly crashed through a glass partition during an argument with Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau following a 6-1 win. Other than that, he’s been fairly mild mannered.
Roy’s players certainly don’t view him as volatile so much as an invigorating presence that’s ignited a much-needed spark. Behind Roy, the team is 6-0 and can match the best start in franchise history with a win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
“There’s never panic with him,” forward Matt Duchene explained. “We could be playing awful, be down a bunch of goals and he doesn’t really panic that much. It’s nice to have a guy like that behind you.”
This is the nurturing side of Roy, instilling confidence through compliments. He actually gave the team a break from the ice Wednesday because he thought they were looking a little tired.
“He knows how to win and he’s won before, so that jolt of energy has done a lot for us,” defenceman Erik Johnson said. “We’re confident in ourselves and trust Patrick and like playing for him. When you have a coach you’re willing to go through a wall for, it makes a big difference. Everyone has that mentality playing for Patrick.”
With a win Thursday, the Hall of Fame goalie would break the mark for most NHL wins to start a coaching career. Roy shares the record with Mario Tremblay, who won his first six games with Montreal in 1995-96, a team Roy played for before being dealt to the Avalanche later that season after a falling out with Tremblay.
Toppling Tremblay’s mark, especially against the Red Wings—one of Roy’s most-heated rivals as a player—would mean a lot to the coach, even if he won’t admit as much.
“That’s not his focus. His focus is to get the two points,” rookie Nathan MacKinnon said. “But whatever records come along with it, he will be very happy.
“He’s worked very hard to get where he is.”
Four years ago, Roy had a chance to take over the Avalanche, but didn’t feel he was ready. Instead, he spent more time serving as coach and general manager of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, just to gain a little more seasoning.
That extra time has come in handy as he and former teammate Joe Sakic, the director of hockey operations, reunite to restore the lustre to an organization that’s missed the playoffs the last three years.
He’s more compassionate than cantankerous, which might be best illustrated in between periods. Even when the team has a rough period, Roy rarely yells or screams, just encourages.
“It’s tough when a coach comes in and rips you apart at the intermission, and you’ve got to pull it together with about 7 minutes left until you’re skating on the ice again,” Duchene said. “When you’re not playing well as an individual and as a team, you know when you’re not playing well. I think when he comes in and teaches us, uses teaching points and is positive, it helps us to move on.
“You can’t live in the past. You’ve got to keep moving forward. That’s been really good, to have him treat us that way.”
They know how much this game against the Red Wings means to Roy, even if he’s downplaying the significance. Roy’s had many bitter—and bloody—meetings with the Red Wings over his career, once even skating to centre ice to exchange blows with fellow goalie Chris Osgood.
MacKinnon, who was still a toddler when that incident took place, has watched footage from the fight on the internet.
“I know all about the history,” MacKinnon said. “I’m definitely aware of it.”
Under Roy’s reign, there’s been more of a democratic approach to the game, a reliance on input from players such as captain Gabriel Landeskog. That helps keep the lines of communication open.
“You can relate to him, you can tell he’s been there before,” Landeskog said. “He’s preached the same message from day one in training camp. It’s definitely rubbing off on us, the passion and how calm he is, both on the bench and here, in meetings. … We’re pretty calm out there and Patrick has been a huge part of that.”
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