Colorado Avalanche: Why Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy Are Invaluable


The Colorado Avalanche might not be the best team around right now. They do, however, have one of the most competent coach-GM duos in the entire NHL when it comes to player issues, which is invaluable for a team.

Head Coach Patrick Roy was an NHL pro for 19 seasons, General Manager Joe Sakic was in the league for 20. Both spent significant portions of their careers — or the entire career, in Sakic’s case — with the Colorado Avalanche, and both were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. When it comes to dealing with player form, morale and similar issues, there aren’t many people who would be better to solve them.

Colorado forwards Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon didn’t have a good 2014-15 season. Duchene went from a point per game to 55 points in 82 games and MacKinnon went from 63 points in 82 games down to 34 points, while suffering a season-ending injury, which limited him to 64 contests. Not exactly what the two had been hoping for.

Now, there are different approaches to handle those issues before the beginning of next season. One could go ahead and say “they are natural goal scorers, they’ll figure it out.” Or, one could go talk to them about it, and try to find a solution. Finding a solution to a problem like that is easier said then done, though. Scoring droughts and such are often sensitive issues that have a lot to do with a player’s confidence.

The thing is that if 10 different people talked to the same player, only few would be convincing enough. If I walked up to MacKinnon and told him “it’s okay, there will be rough patches in your career, but I know you can get through it”, he likely wouldn’t take me seriously. I’ve never played in the NHL, so what do I know? If, say, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper (check out his story, it’s quite cool) walked up to him and said the same thing, it would obviously be much more convincing. However, Cooper has also never played hockey past high school level, so he also wouldn’t know what’s going on in MacKinnon’s mind. Enter Roy and Sakic.

If Roy or Sakic say that exact thing — perhaps embedded in a few more sentences — players like MacKinnon and Duchene listen and believe what they hear. ESPN talked to all four about exactly that. MacKinnon had the following to say about his GM.

"“It’s good. He knows,” MacKinnon said. “He started in the NHL at 18 like me. He played in the NHL 20 years. He gets it. He’s won Cups and he was a captain. It’s exciting to hear what he has to say because it’s 100 percent true. He knows what he’s talking about.”"

Colorado Avalanche No. 1 center Duchene added the following.

"“It set my summer up really well,” the 24-year-old star said. “Being able to talk to Joe, and have him as a sounding board, the guy was my idol as a kid. We had a really good chat. He’s a guy I like to lean on. He’s been in my position. It’s the same thing. There’s no better guy to talk to than him.”"

Both players mentioned exactly what I said above –Sakic is a “believable boss”. He’s been in the players’ position, he’s done it all. Sakic had a rookie season much like that of MacKinnon, recording 62 points in 70 games. From there, Sakic went on to being Avalanche captain and their best forward of all time, while bringing two Stanley Cups to Denver.

More from Avalanche News

The same goes for Roy. While Sakic’s career basically just went uphill from that rookie season, Roy struggled a bit in his first few years in the league, before becoming another Colorado Avalanche legend.

There are many athletes and sport experts who say that sports are about 80 percent mental. It probably can’t just be expressed in a number like that, but the point is that the mental part is incredibly important in hockey and all other sports. For players, it’s easy to get into a slump — the hard part is to get over it and get back to where you were. If there are two people who have valid arguments when it comes to getting players out of slumps, it’s Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, which makes the duo invaluable for the Colorado Avalanche.

Next: Is the Offensive System Right for the Avalanche?

More from Mile High Sticking