Patrick Roy was always the biggest personality in the room. Always will be, likely.
So it was with a raised eyebrow back in May of 2013, that we learned executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic had hired Roy to be his head coach and V.P. of hockey operations. Two Hall of Famers and Avalanche Cup winners, working together to rebuild in Denver.
Sakic is a quiet man, not prone to confrontation. The opposite of opinionated. As a player he was a smooth, consistent deliverer of points at the highest level, but his personality was as humble as his wrist shot was sharp. You never heard him coming on the ice. The goal light simply announced Sakic’s presence.
“Quoteless Joe” the media called him. And Sakic laughed when that nickname made it around to him.
Roy was/is the polar opposite. He is hot-blooded, sharp-tongued, and was never afraid to say too much — in jest or in fury. His exit from the Montreal Canadiens was the classic example. Infuriated after being left in goal for too long in a blow out, he walked right up to Montreal Canadiens president Ronald Corey and quit the Habs right there on national television.
Sakic wouldn’t have done something like that in a million years.
So there they were in Colorado, running an organization that has always been a strange mix of former Quebec Nordiques employees with a head coach who made himself famous in the Canadiens goal, then cut his coaching teeth in the Quebec Major Junior League. Sakic, the so-called GM, and Roy, the coach who was always suspected of having a major say in personnel moves.
Only this summer rumour has it that Roy was the one making the decisions on which scouts remained in the Avs employ and which ones didn’t. Now, Roy has unexpectedly quit, the same way he quit the Canadiens.
For those who wondered if Roy ran roughshod over Sakic in those war room meetings, this is a sign that Sakic has quietly scored enough points to become the lone survivor in this Colorado power struggle. Although we do not know what the specific personnel issues were that Sakic and Roy butted heads over, the fact that Sakic remains assumes that Roy’s opinion was not heeded nearly as often as he would demand.
Did he want Sakic to hold on to Ryan O’Reilly last summer, when Sakic dealt him to Buffalo? Was he against keeping defenceman Tyson Barrie, who finally settled on a contract in Denver last month? Did Roy wish for Matt Duchene to be moved, and Sakic either wouldn’t comply or couldn’t find a satisfactory deal?
All we can say for sure is that, as a head coach, Roy was given a decent young group around which to mould a team, and in his rookie season he won the Central Division. Two subsequent playoff misses — and the fact Gabriel Landeskog, Duchene, Paul Stastny (now in St. Louis), and even Nathan MacKinnon have all seen their production decline in the past two seasons — have worn the sheen off of Roy’s coaching star, however.
As the Avalanche project began to fail, one could see Roy leaning hard on Sakic to provide him with the commensurate players for his coaching pedigree, real or perceived. After a while, even Quoteless Joe would have to stand up and remind Patrick who the GM of the team is, and we’ll guess that a similar scenario led us to where we are today:
With Patrick Roy as the newest free agent coach, quitting in Colorado the way he did in Montreal.
Some will say that Roy is the coach in waiting for Montreal, should Michel Therrien not put the Habs back near the top of their division promptly this fall. But if you are Montreal GM Marc Bergevin, wouldn’t Roy be radioactive?
What GM would want a coach who demands a weighty say in all personnel issues? And what coach, considering the tepid success Roy has had at the NHL level, would want to divide his own attention that way?
Roy may be a great coach one day, or perhaps a legendary GM. Trying to be both at the same time however, is a recipe for having no job at all.