Looking back at Patrick Roy's first NHL head coaching job

Patrick Roy spent three seasons behind the bench with the Avalanche. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)

Earlier this week, agent Neil Glasberg of PBI Sports announced a new partnership with Patrick Roy, indicating Roy's interest in a potential return to the NHL.

“He could be a president of hockey ops. He could be a GM. He could be a co-GM. He could be a head coach,” Glasberg told Sportsnet's Luke Fox later Monday. “It's going to be situational. That's the truthful answer.”

Per Fox's report, Roy is happy in his current role as general manager and coach of the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts -- the same club he coached to Memorial Cup victory in his first post-playing endeavour -- and was approached by Glasberg about the idea of representation. There's no imminent NHL deal in place, nor has there been communication between Roy and his old club the Montreal Canadiens.

All that being said, it's an interesting development considering Roy's status as NHL goaltending royalty and what happened during his first (and currently only) NHL coaching stint.

Roy's tenure in Colorado started with a spark but ultimately fizzled out after three seasons, with Roy surprising the hockey world with his resignation just two months before his fourth was set to begin.

Here's a look back at how his three-year tenure with the Avalanche unfolded:

The hiring
Hired as head coach of the Avalanche in 2013, Roy's first foray into NHL coaching saw him join forces with his old teammate Joe Sakic. Roy had spent the previous eight seasons as coach and general manager of the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts and Sakic had just been given more power in the Avalanche's front office as executive vice-president of hockey operations. Roy's new role also included the title of vice-president of hockey operations, with both men contributing to organizational decision-making at a pivotal time in franchise history that saw the team hold the No. 1 overall draft pick and the rights to select Nathan MacKinnon.

He made a fiery first impression
Known for being a fierce competitor on the ice throughout his goaltending career with the Canadiens and Avalanche, the Hall-of-Famer brought that same energy to Colorado upon his return to the franchise as head coach. He wasted no time setting the standard, winning the crowd over and (quite literally) almost bringing down the house in his very first game. As the final buzzer sounded on the Avalanche's 6-1 season-opening victory over the Anaheim Ducks, Roy got into a verbal altercation with then-Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, slamming on the glass partition separating the benches and almost knocking it right over.

"Well, we knew we were going to get fire and passion from Patrick Roy, and we're seeing that right at the end of game No. 1 as he makes his debut as a head coach in the National Hockey League," Avalanche commentators said as the melee unfolded below on the ice.

Roy was issued a game misconduct and fined $10,000 for the outburst.

“This is the league policy and I understand it now, but at the same time I will always defend my players. Things happen. This is the way I dealt with this one. Would I deal with it differently next time? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know,” Roy told the Denver Post later that week.

The incident led to very public verbal jabs between Roy and Boudreau via the press, with Boudreau saying Roy's antics were "not the way the game is played” and Roy retorting by calling Boudreau's comments "classless."

In the beginning, things were great
That fiery first season was ultimately a huge success for Roy, whose homecoming in Colorado saw him tasked with jump-starting a struggling squad that had missed the playoffs the previous three years and hadn't won a playoff round since 2007-08.

With Roy at the helm, Colorado went from a 16-25-7 club in the 48-game 2012-13 season to a 52-22-8 team that finished first in the Central Division with a whopping 112 points. Under his guidance, Colorado's biggest stars at the time really shone: Matt Duchene had what is still his most productive season, tallying 70 points in 71 games; Gabriel Landeskog hit personal highs at the time with his 65-point season; Ryan O'Reilly's 28-goal, 64-point campaign was also a personal best at the time; and new kid Nathan MacKinnon put up a cool 24 goals and 63 points to claim the Calder Memorial Trophy.

For his part, Roy received the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. It looked like the Avalanche had endured the tough part of their rebuild and were coming out the other side contenders.

After Year One, things went downhill
Unfortunately, things didn't pan out as expected -- an early exit in the post-season that year cut the club's hopes short and they didn't return under Roy's tenure.

The fall was fast. One season after their 52-win season and first-place divisional finish, Colorado dropped to 39-31-12 -- a 22-point drop in the standings -- and a seventh-place divisional finish. The third (and ultimately final) season proved a little worse still, going 39-39-4 for 82 points and making it clear it was the 2013-14 season -- and not the season that followed -- that was the outlier.

The underlying numbers weren't in his favour
It should be noted that Roy's success in his first season did come with plenty of warnings, particularly from those digging into the analytics, saying the team's numbers and playing style were simply unsustainable, prone to high-risk situations with poor shot metrics and CF%.

He wasn't afraid to defy convention
Like some of his emotional antics, Roy's coaching strategies could be unpredictable. The most well-known example applies to his unconventional decisions around when to pull the goalie. On more than one occasion, he pulled the goalie with 10 minutes left in regulation.

And, to be fair... sometimes it kind of worked! Losing 4-1 with 10 minutes to go against the Ottawa Senators in November 2015, Roy turned a 4-on-4 situation into a 5-on-4 by pulling Reto Berra and then 6-on-4 once Colorado's penalty was over. While the Avalanche did ultimately lose, the extra skaters resulted in a thrilling pair of Colorado goals less than two minutes apart.

He earned a reputation as a players' coach
His outspokenness in defence of his players didn't keep him from also calling out his players, which definitely drew headlines at times. But that same outspokenness and honesty is also what made him, by many accounts, a respected coach.

Duchene, who was on the receiving end of public criticism from Roy after a game in April 2016, opened up about playing for Roy following his departure.

“I learned a lot from him,” Duchene told reporter Mike Zeisberger. “He said he enjoyed coaching me. That was great to hear from one of my heroes as a kid.

“That’s the end of that chapter and it ended on a great note for him and I. There was never any problems there.”

The resignation
On Aug. 11, 2016, just under two months before the start of the 2016-17 season, Roy announced he was stepping down from his post as head coach, citing a difference in opinions on front office matters.

"I have thought long and hard over the course of the summer about how I might improve this team to give it the depth it needs to bring it to a higher level," Roy said in a statement, announcing his decision to step down. "To achieve this, the vision of the coach and VP-hockey operations needs to be perfectly aligned with that of the organization. He must also have a say in the decisions that impact the team's performance. These conditions are not currently met. Though it saddens me, I have put much thought about this decision in recent weeks and have come to be fully comfortable with it."

Sakic said he was informed of the decision by Roy himself before the statement was released, and wished his friend well.

Roy returned to the Remparts in 2018, and we'll have to wait to see whether there's another NHL stint in his future.

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