Avalanche Lessons from Kings Loss: Trust in Patrick Roy


Patrick Roy is a great hockey mind.

The Colorado Avalanche lost 4-0 against the Los Angeles Kings in their annual Frozen Fury match up. The team managed just an embarrassing 14 shots on net, while goalie Reto Berra stopped 28 of 32 shots, “good” for a .787 save percentage.

As the game got stupid, some Colorado Avalanche fans began blaming head coach Patrick Roy. Blaming the coach is nothing new in sports. The specifics of the complaints were that coach Roy didn’t play his opening night lineup — captain Gabriel Landeskog and #1 defensman Erik Johnson were notabley absent. People were also questioning his system.

I just woke up from a nightmare in which I respectfully suggested some changes to Patrick Roy, and I was horribly shown the error of my ways. (No joke — I need to try his whole even keel mentality, obviously.)

That tells you my core belief, though — I got nothing that I can say to Patrick Roy about hockey. Conversely, I have some insight about what might be going on.

Goalie Decision

Reto Berra’s being in net was one of the first complaints. However, that didn’t surprise me at all. Firstly, we all know how wonky Semyon Varlamov‘s groin can get. Why risk it for a regular season game, especially since Varlamov had played in three already.

All the Berra haters should also rejoice. It could be that Patrick Roy was really giving him one last look. Could be he’s getting pressure from money man (president) Josh Kroenke about sending NHL contracts to the AHL, and last night’s game was the leverage he needed to prove this one’s worth it.

That’s obviously pure conjecture. He also could have been looking for something in Berra’s game, choosing which teams he can play the beleaguered net minder against.

Forwards Roster Decision

Curtis Glencross is on a PTO — obviously coach Roy wanted to give him one last look. I’m guessing Glencross failed to impress. He skated with Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla — and he brought their game down.

However, coach Roy was also giving a last look at prospect Borna Rendulic. He skated with Gabriel Landeskog’s line — Carl Soderberg and Alex Tanguay. Rendulic did better than Glencross certainly, but I think he’s heading down to San Antonio to play with the Rampage.

Remember, Jack Skille is also on a PTO. He certainly outshined Glencross in his professional tryout. He skated on the fourth line with John Mitchell and Cody McLeod.

Mikko Rantanen’s immediate fate is still up in the air. He skated on the third line. It seems like coach Roy has been testing Rantanen’s role with the team.

Coach Roy is also transitioning Nathan MacKinnon into his natural center position. MacKinnon hasn’t excelled in that position yet at the NHL level. He is starting to show he’s leaning toward being a power forward — he fought Trevor Lewis last night.

Obviously Patrick Roy is testing which players have chemistry, which naturally complement each other. I don’t know what he saw last night — but I can guarantee it was infinitely more than what I saw.

Defensemen Roster Decision

My faith got tested when I saw that Erik Johnson was not in the lineup. It’s not just that he’s my favorite player, but I think he needs to cement his chemistry with Francois Beauchemin on the top pairing.

Instead, Nate Guenin was skating with Beauchemin. Guenin has a lot of haters, and they should also rejoice. Could be coach Roy was evaluating how often he’ll be one of the healthy scratches.

It’s clear that Tyson Barrie and Brandon Gormley are going to be a pairing. Nikita Zadorov was paired with Brad Stuart. I’m pretty sure Patrick Roy wants a veteran influence for Zadorov — he proved last season he likes using Stuart for that purpose.

The System

Coach Roy has said he wants a system built on size, speed and scoring. Looking at the players the Colorado Avalanche has available, I don’t know how that could be considered a wrong system. The team is built for that type of system, and that system is built for these types of players.

The defensive aspect of the game gets knocked a lot. The implication is that coach Roy isn’t working that aspect of the game enough. First of all, Patrick Roy spent his entire career watching defensemen — and cleaning up the mess when the system broke down. He knows the importance of defense to the game.

We don’t need to infer, though. Coach Roy has preached defense. He has charged even the offensive likes of Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon with improving the defensive side of their game. He and GM Joe Sakic went out and beefed up their defense during the off-season.

If the Colorado Avalanche were getting 30+ shots on goal — and a lot of goals — but losing due to how many goals they allowed… that would be a knock on an offense-first system. They got 14 shots on goal.

Evaluating Patrick Roy’s Decisions

Sorry, but I’m going to go on record as stating I’m not qualified to evaluate the decisions head coach Patrick Roy is making. It’s not just that he’s a Hall of Fame player. As has been pointed out, other Hall of Famers such as Adam Oates and Wayne Gretzky failed at coaching.

It’s partially because coach Roy was so successful in the Quebec Major Juniors. He coached the Quebec Remparts to the playoffs every year for eight seasons consecutively.

It’s largely because Patrick Roy won the Jack Adams award for coaching his first NHL year. They don’t give those to just anybody, you know.

Mostly it’s because Patrick Roy has a brilliant hockey mind. He revolutionized goal tending and the whole game by popularizing the butterfly style. He’s also changed coaching by pulling the goalie much earlier than is conventional.

It’s said all he does during his “off time” is watch film. He’s an arrogant man, but he’s said to talk to coaches such as Bob Hartley for advice. In other words, he’s starting with brilliance and adding knowledge to it.

Sorry, but I don’t know how you can argue with that.

Should Patrick Roy have still been testing players and chemistry in the final preseason game? I don’t know. I doubt it’s black and white, though. There were problems in the last couple games. There may be problems come opening night. Coach Roy maybe could have handled things a little differently.

But the outcome may have been the same. In the end, he’s not the one skating on the ice. The players say they love him and love his system. Time to put their talents where their mouths are.

Next: Why Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are Invaluable

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