Patrick Roy and the Promised Land


Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Current Avalanche head coach, Patrick Roy, has won at almost every level. In 1985, he led his Sherbrooke Canadiens, now defunct AHL team, to a Calder cup victory despite a losing record. Roy won 4 Stanley Cups, was awarded the Conn Smythe 3 of those 4 seasons, has had the fewest goals scored against him in 5 of his 17 seasons in the NHL, has won the Vezina 3 times, and has been selected for the All-Star game 11 times, tying Terry Sawchuk for the 2nd most appearances by a goaltender. Moving on to his coaching career, he commanded the Quebec Ramparts to a Memorial Cup victory in 2006, his first season with the team.

Roy will be looking to continue the tradition by leading the 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup. A Cinderella story of sorts, the Avalanche finished the shortened 2013 season second to last in the NHL with 39 points, only to be ousted by the Florida Panthers for dead last in the league. This season is an entirely different story. With a little less than a month left in the regular season, the Avalanche sit in top 5 in the league, not trying to survive and fight for a wild card playoff spot, but battling for home ice during the playoffs. In Roy’s first press conference as Avalanche head coach, he vowed to change the culture in Denver and to bring a ”Stanley Cup attitude” to the team.

How has he flipped a horrid team, plagued by bad habits and horrible coaching into a playoff caliber team?

Rewind back to April 29th, 2013. The day of the NHL Draft Lottery. The Colorado Avalanche went in, with an 18.8% chance of leaping over the Florida Panthers for the 1st overall pick. As thousands of Avalanche fans huddled around their televisions and computer monitors, the lottery began. “The Columbus Bluejackets retain the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft.” And as the picks began to move lower and lower, anticipation only grew. “The Tampa Bay Lightning retain the 3rd pick in the 2013 draft.” As the 1st overall envelope was raised, fans of both, the Avalanche and the Panthers, we’re nervous. For Avs fans, landing the 1st overall choice would mean drafting Seth Jones, augmenting a weak defensive core. Panthers’ fans had their eyes set on centerman Nathan MacKinnon, to play alongside 3rd overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau for years to come. “The winner of the draft lottery, and holder of the 1st overall pick of the 2013 NHL entry draft is the Colorado Avalanche.” Greg Sherman, Colorado Avalanche General Manager, couldn’t help but to let out a visible smirk after the words had been uttered.

Fast forward to May 26th, during the Mastercard Memorial Cup. The night Nathan MacKinnon’s Mooseheads ousted Seth Jones’ Portland Winterhawks in the finals to win the Memorial Cup tournament. Up until that point, Avs’ fans we’re praying for newly appointed President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic, and his partner in crime, VP of Hockey Operations and head coach, Patrick Roy to select the massive, 6’ 4” defenseman, Seth Jones. But, Nathan MacKinnon proved to be too good to pass up on during the tournament, notching 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points in just 11 games.

Come draft day, no one knew what the Avs we’re going to do with the pick. Would they trade down, and risk not getting the player they hoped for? Would they hold onto the pick? Would they package it in a blockbuster deal? No one knew except for Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, and Greg Sherman. When their time came, the trio took the stage, not to announce they had traded the pick, but to announce that they had drafted young Nathan MacKinnon from the Halifax Mooseheads.

During the free agency period, beginning on July 5th, the aptly named “SakRoy” duo made few moves that on the surface looked like minor deals, signing Nate Guenin, Nick Holden, and Andre Benoit. They would end up not only contributing on the defensive end of the rink, but in the offensive zone as well, with Holden notching 19 points in 42 games and Benoit getting 25 points in 68 games.

During training camp, fans got a first look at their new head coach in action. Constantly seen working with players, talking 1-on-1 with them, and being patient while implementing a brand new system. No one knew what to expect once the regular season started, but people we’re excited. There was a constant buzz around the entire state of Colorado.

Roy’s first regular season game was on October 2nd against the Anaheim Ducks inside the Pepsi Center. There was a scuffle between benches after the 6 – 1 spanking that was handed to away team. A wildly talked about event, and soon to be a historic moment in Avalanche history, Patrick Roy, attacking the glass partition, separating the two benches. I said, out loud to my father, “Our coaching staff? Showing passion?”

Fans could tell a new era had begun. We weren’t sure how good we were at that time, but we were happy. We could only dream of being in the position we are now.

A certain phrase, coined by Ray Bourque, has been resonating throughout the locker room and the fans.

Why Not Us?

Why not another win tonight?

Roy simply won’t accept losing, and because of this, the 180 the Avalanche have pulled took everyone by surprise, except for Patrick Roy. He has always planned to win, whether it be as a player or a coach.

He won a Stanley Cup as a 20-year-old rookie in 1986, and he bodes to do the same as a rookie NHL coach. He led the Avalanche to 2 Stanley Cups in net, why not do it behind the bench?

From the day he took over as head coach, he insisted on taking the 2nd worst team in the NHL to the Promised Land that is the NHL Playoffs, and after a few more wins, he will have done that. Because of this, he has been the front runner to win the Jack Adams award, or Coach of the Year

They don’t know how he did it, but fans are buying in to what Roy is preaching. And his church is growing.