Avalanche Hockey: Sakic and Roy Explain Team Dynamics


“Joe (Sakic) and I want to win the Stanley Cup, and that hasn’t changed” ~Patrick Roy

Is there any person more capable of explaining Colorado Avalanche hockey than head coach Patrick Roy? Perhaps only the man who served as the team’s captain since before Day 1, GM Joe Sakic. During a press conference after introducing the Avalanche’s three top prospects to the media, Sakic and Roy detailed the team’s dynamics.

Avalanche Master Plan

At the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, coach Roy revealed that the Colorado Avalanche had a cunning plan. Ok, he just said that he and Sakic had a plan towards which they were working.

I don’t know about at that exact moment, but it turns out center Ryan O’Reilly actually wasn’t a part of the plan. Indeed, when asked about O’Reilly, Sakic said:

"“Hey, we were happy we were able to accomplish what we did in Buffalo. We know we have a lot of offensive forwards that are young and they’re going to do very well for us. But we needed help in the back end.”"

Interestingly, Sakic never talks about the deal that O’Reilly actually got, only that the execs were pleased with their return. O’Reilly signed a seven-year contract worth $7.5 million per year. Sakic said openly the Avs never intended to “get to those numbers.”

That said, both Sakic and Roy talked more about what Colorado Avalanche hockey is going to look like in the near future.

Colorado Grit

Sakic emphasized over and over the grit factor. He mentioned it in conjunction with prospect AJ Greer. He talked about forward Blake Comeau‘s grit. And he certainly talked at length about defenseman Francois Beauchemin‘s gritty play.

Now, this is a little funny coming from a man who, as a player for the Avs, was known more for his finesse than his grit. However, remember, Sakic played Avalanche hockey in the physical era of 1990s hockey. Also, this should put the doubters to rest — Sakic knows what league his team faces now. For the most part the Wild West that was 1990s hockey is over – except in the actual Wild West.

Coach Roy concurred about the need for Colorado grit, “We want to have more physicality in our game.”

Roy mentioned three teams specifically that gave the Avalanche trouble grit-wise last year — the Anaheim Ducks, LA Kings and Winnipeg Jets. All three are known for being big, puck possession, hard-hitting teams. You could add to that list Central Division rivals such as the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues. Both have bloodied the Avs — literally — on more than one occasion.

Roy had the answer for that: “You need to have a bit of jam in your game.”

Some of that jam is coming from the middle — or the center position. Coach Roy specifically talked about how the acquisition of Carl Soderberg and Mikhail Grigorenko adds size down the middle.

Size Still Matters, But IQ is Key

When talking about the Colorado Avalanche hockey prospects, AJ Greer, Nicolas Meloche and, especially, Mikko Rantanen, Sakic stated more than once that the player “played the right way.” Indeed, he stated outright that size alone was not enough:

"“Not only size. We want to be a grittier team. We’re in a conference that we have to get through some teams that have size. But we didn’t just go for size. You’ve got to be able to play the game and skate.”"

In fact, two new players are big but not really gritty — prospect Mikko Rantanen and forward Mikhail Grigorenko. They’re both still big, but Sakic praises their hockey IQ. Indeed, he called Grigorenko’s “off the charts.”

Coach Roy reiterated that. He spoke of Rantanen’s size and skating ability.

Defense Set for a Decade

Yes, Joe Sakic actually said a decade, or 10 years anyway:

"“[Nikita Zadorov] is going to be on the back end for a good 10 years for us.”"

Naturally, at 35 already, Francois Beauchemin is not in for that length of time. However, both Sakic and Roy were clear in what they expected from him — to play the big minutes against the top lines. Beauchemin had done so with the Anaheim Ducks, so both Sakic and Roy feel confident he can do so again. That experience was important. Sakic said:

"“We didn’t want somebody we were hoping could fill that role. With Francois Beauchemin, he did it for the best team in the Western Conference last year.”"

Both Sakic and Roy maintain that Beauchemin is the guy they see partnering the Avs’ #1 defenseman, Erik Johnson. Coach Roy said he thought Beauchemin’s experience and playing style would especially be benefits to Johnson — to the “young” blueline as a whole.

Ultimately, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are winners. Both are men who, as players, lifted the Stanley Cup above their heads. They want that for their young charges now.

I think they selfishly want it for themselves again, too. That’s a promising sign for Colorado Avalanche hockey.

Next: Get to Know Carl Soderberg

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