Colorado Avalanche: Understanding Coach Roy’s Criticism

Mar 26, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy on his bench in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy on his bench in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy criticized Matt Duchene’s celebration after a goal, and came under criticism himself.

Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy came under fire from the press and the team fandom when he criticized one of the most popular players, Matt Duchene. Duchene had scored the lone goal in a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

The goal happened to be Duchene’s 30th on the year, which is the first time he’s hit the 30-goal mark in his seven-year career. After scoring late in the third, Duchene threw his hands in the air before calming himself — the goal only made the score 4-1 at a time when the Colorado Avalanche needed a win.

Here’s the video of the goal and the celebration:

I was at the game. At the time, I was giving only half my attention to the play. I’d watched 55 minutes of the team giving only desultory effort on the ice, and I had to keep reminding myself to stay off my phone because I had, after all, paid to watch hockey in the Pepsi Center.

When the goal occurred, I, like many, thought it was Mikkel Boedker who scored. My initial reaction was, “Whoop. We didn’t get shut out.” However, when it was announced that Matt Duchene had scored — and I saw that he was the first to go through the fist-bump line — I did cheer his 30-goal milestone.

However, my initial reaction shows you the reality of the situation — it was a meaningless goal in what should have been an all-important game.

After the game, coach Roy started out in his usual calm demeanor. However, as he answered a question about how important the game was, Roy vented his frustration with the celebration:

"“The thing I have a hard time is the reaction of Dutchy after he scores. It’s a 4-0 goal … big cheer. Are you kidding me? What is that? I mean, it’s not the [reaction] we want from our guys, not at all.”"

Those are some of the harshest words Patrick Roy has uttered about his players since become the head coach before the 2013-14 season.

Here’s the actual video of the presser — the quote in question starts at about the 1:50 mark:

Now, first of all, I believe that’s the first time we’ve witnessed Patrick Roy actually lose his legendary temper. The stanchion incident — even he says that was a calculated move. When he cursed at the referee during a Winnipeg Jets game earlier this year, I also called that a calculated move.

This criticism of Matt Duchene doesn’t feel calculated.

So, why did Patrick Roy finally lose his legendary temper? Well, first of all, let’s explore that legendary temper. Roy has always been known for his fiery personality. What’s more, it was the foundation of his brilliance as a goalie. Sure, opponents will point to that time he Statue of Libertied with the puck and dropped it into his own net. But the reality is, his sheer confidence elevated his talent and skill to an elite — to a Hall of Fame — level.

We now counter that with the mindset of the current Colorado Avalanche team, especially the core players. Indeed, just prior to that quote, coach Roy is talking about the psyche of the team. He says, “We need to change the mindset of the team. It’s a losing mindset right now.”

We’ve spent a lot of time here talking about the ailments of the team’s psyche:

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I think having spent years on losing teams has dulled some of the core players’ senses, and they allow themselves to make critical errors at key times.

As if that wasn’t enough, they seem to have given up on the season. Some of these players are the exact same ones that then-goalie J.S. Giguere famously ripped for planning their Las Vegas trips before the season was even officially over.

In other words, this is a core of talented players that are known for lacking a killer instinct.

Enter a man who was renowned for his killer instinct. Say what you want about Martin Brodeur‘s records, back in the day Patrick Roy was known as the most clutch of goalies. The more important the game, the better he was. Roy was the goalie you wanted in net if a saved shot would save the world.

I think Patrick Roy is baffled by these players going onto the ice with apathy. I think his psychological makeup genuinely cannon comprehend their failure to play their best game when it counts the most. Because I don’t think anyone — least of all the players — is calling that effort against the St. Louis Blues (much less against the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and, dammit, Minnesota Wild) their best effort.

I think a man who once checked himself out of the hospital to tend goal during a playoff run has finally reached his limit with players who can’t even effectively play a sport they’ve been playing since they were tiny. The missed shots, the flubbed passes, the bad positioning and the overall lack of teamwork is something we’ve all been expressing frustration with.

I attend a lot of Colorado Avalanche practices. I can tell you that they work on passing and shooting and supporting the defense. They work on teamwork. There’s no reason for it to be so lacking in games.

So, Patrick Roy’s frustration is understandable. Matt Duchene’s celebration may not only have seemed unseemly to Roy, it may have looked like a symptom of that individualistic attitude that has plagued the team all year — or for a lot of years, actually.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it actually was that. Duchene, in an interview, wasn’t all that celebratory:

"“I won’t enjoy it tonight. Maybe it’s something I’ll look back on after the season and enjoy it on a personal level, but you play and you try and score goals to make the playoffs. If you’re not in the playoffs, it doesn’t really mean as much as you want it to mean. No one remembers that, and no one cares. Everyone just cares about who’s in the playoffs, and that’s all we care about. That’s all I care about. Obviously, it’s a nice milestone, but I’m not thinking about it at all right now. I’m just very disappointed about this loss tonight.”"

So, Patrick Roy finally lost his legendary temper for real, and it was just Matt Duchene’s misfortune to have been an easy target at the time. I don’t think the entire incident is the portend of doom that some media see it as.