Patrick Roy

Not all successful junior coaches are cut out to coach pro hockey, but a certain type should expect to have an even tougher time: “name” junior coaches.

I bring this up in light of the news over the past day or two from Adrian Dater of the Denver Post that Patrick Roy is very likely to be named the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche. Dater relays the news from Stéphane Roy, Patrick’s brother:

“They’re discussing the final details of an arrangement. Colorado is going to be very happy. Patrick is looking for a new challenge,” said Stephane Roy, the younger brother of his famous sibling.

And:

Stephane Roy, who played briefly in the NHL, posted on his Facebook page Monday night, “For all my friends I’d like you to know before the official news spreads that my older brother will be the new coach of the Colorado Avalanch(sic).”

So yeah, it sounds like this is happening.

Roy may very well go to Colorado and succeed, but I can think of a few reasons to be skeptical.

I understand that Patrick Roy is, in fact, Patrick Roy, and the Avalanche would really like to make their fans happy (“Hey, we won when he was here, having him around will mean more winning!“), but it seems unlikely that the best available coach – who you should always hire, for crying out loud – happens to be Roy.

NHL benches and the American Hockey League are littered with smart hockey minds who have experience coaching pro hockey. And it’s not even about the game of pro hockey so much as it is the players that makes that important (though the game is different from the QMJHL too). You aren’t dealing with junior kids who can be intimidated because you essentially hold their future in your hands (with their ice time and roster spot).

This is men, some near your age, who require the respect of the coach as much as the coach requires it himself. This is potential superstars who think they deserve more, only these ones often have leverage. It’s half-coaching and half human resources. I understand that Roy was once an NHLer and should know about these relationships, but there’s a difference between being a crazy-famous goaltender and being told to take the crease night-in, night-out, and dealing with third and fourth liners in-and-between games.

And being a “name” coach in the junior – as in, a guy who folks know about for more than their performance coaching at that current level – means you have an easier time recruiting and keeping talent. Guys want to play for them because they know they have connections beyond that level (“Hey, it’s Patrick. You guys should really look at this kid on our team, underrated.“). So often, they end up with uncommonly good rosters. And they have an easier time getting players to listen and buy-in to their plans for the same reason, along with the respect factor of hearing it from someone who’s “been there before.”

In pro hockey, though? Once a name coach gets there, what good is that name? You’re coaching guys who are doing what you did (and therefore less enthralled by your way, given the success of their own), and half of them are out-earning you. That auto-buy-in a name coach has in junior (along with the recruiting ease) isn’t a thing anymore. Do we believe Dale Hunter is an amazing coach, or has been able assemble excellent junior teams?

I do like the idea that Patrick is a fiery, competitive character, and will at the very least breathe some life back into the Avalanche organization, while hopefully representing a fresh start. But I feel like that same fire is the type that could lead him into trouble down the road. It may take some political maneuvering at the top level, where he’s probably largely gotten his way in junior.

I’m not writing this to say that I don’t think Patrick Roy will succeed at the NHL level. I just think that the reasons it seems like he would be hired – ex-Avs player, had success coaching junior – don’t seem like they’ll translate much to success coaching a big league club.

Comments (19)

  1. Perfect fit for avs because they are a young team. Landeskog as the captain and Roy as coach I could see them fitting perfectly together.

  2. Three words… Statue of Liberty!

  3. Justin-

    A lot of folks in Denver are clamoring for the Avs to hire George Gwozdecky, the recently fired Denver University coach, who’s never played or coached a game at the pro level. If they were the only two candidates, which one do you pick?

    • to be fair, it’s only the people who don’t pay too much attention to the Avs or NHL in general. I dont think Gwoz was ever seriously considered or probably would want the job. He’ll be able to find a nice d1 job when Michigan or something like that opens up.

      • True. I don’t like the thought of either of them being the head coach, I was just curious to see what the thoughts would be if they were the only 2 options.

  4. As a Leafs fan, I thought for sure Dallas Eakins was a goner for Colorado. Glad he still (is currently) in the fold.

  5. As an Avs fan, I’m slightly uneasy about this news as well, but perhaps for a different reason.

    You mentioned that Roy would be faced with dealing with players near his age and superstars with more leverage than him. The Avs are in a unique position where they don’t really have many of either. With Hejduk likely gone, Giguere’s the only veteran in the room. Hejda and Parenteau are in their 30′s, but they’re both late bloomers who don’t have a ton of NHL experience. Our entire core is 25 and under, and the only two “superstars” we have – Landeskog and Duchene – were both big Avs fans as kids. If anyone could intimidate them, it would probably be Saint Patrick. And as for the political maneuvering at the top level, if anyone knows how to deal with Roy, it would be his long-time Captain.

    My worry centers more around his lack of experience at the NHL level. A rookie NHL coach combined with a very young locker room just seems like a recipe for disaster. He’s coming from a weaker defensive league as well, so what does that mean for all our young blueliners? Also, with Varlamov already a bit of a head case, what are the expectations that go with being Roy’s goalie going to do to him?

    I just have an awful feeling that this is going to blow up in our face. As much as I adore Roy, I don’t think he’s the best candidate for this young team, and I’m also not looking forward to the day they have to fire him. This just feels like another incestuous hire – an easy cop-out to put people in seats instead of points on the board. I hope I’m wrong, but next season is going to be VERY interesting either way.

  6. Never mind Roy being a ‘name’ junior coach – how about the fact that he used to be a goalie. Off the top of my head, the only other goalie-turned-head-coach I can think of in recent years is Glen Hanlon, and he didn’t exactly pull up trees guiding Washington to the draft lottery.

  7. The Avalanche organization is turning into an old boys’ club. When will Peter Forsberg be hired to be a skating coach? People talk about players having ego issues, especially when they’re highly talented and demand to play a certain number of minutes or in certain situations. Only the good coaches know how to manage such egos. This is why I’m not so sure previous superstars can become supercoaches – dealing with others’ ego issues on top of their own? Not a believer. Skeptical? Sure. Can Roy turn out to be an amazing coach at the NHL level? Again – sure.

    In any case, best of luck to Roy and Avalanche organization.

  8. As an Avs fan I am torn. The guy is one of the most competitive people I have ever watched play, and has certainly paid his dues in the Q. He clearly wants the job too as it is the second time he has went after it that we know about. Scotty Bowman endorsed him to be an NHL coach back in 2009 and he has always had the reputation of being interested in the tactical side of the game dating back to when he was a player with Hartley and Crawford.

    I think he could be very successful with the right combination of assistants. He probably needs a very strong tactician on the bench as well. Somebody who could run the PP/PK and they’d have to be the easygoing type in my opinion (which most assistants are right?)

    • Guy Boucher would be a perfect fit as that assistant, if there are no other job opportunities in the NHL. Last time Roy was rumoured to come to Colorado, he said he would try and bring Boucher (still coaching in the Q) as an assistant. He has three college degrees and has been coaching for about 15 years now. Very smart guy who works well with his players. Would also bring that fire that the Avalanche bench so desperately needs.

      But if they brought Boucher in, they would need someone to come in and specialize with the defense. Also, his asking price might be too steep for the Avs.

  9. “It may take some political maneuvering at the top level, where he’s probably largely gotten his way in junior.”

    Didn’t he own at least part of the team as well?

  10. In Keith Jones book, he gushed about how knowledgeable about the game Patrick Roy was. He basically shouted out all the D-zone coverages and directed the PK from the crease. Jones predicted in that book, which is fairly old now, that he would be top-notch NHL coach someday. So I wouldn’t dismiss him as just a goalie or just a big name.

    • Bob Hartley raved about him in an interview with Sportsnet today as well. Scotty Bowman has said he thinks he will be an outstanding coach. I think he has the knowledge to do it and has a better apprenticeship than most folks coming out of junior.

  11. So if his name was Billy Johnston would he be a good fit? I’ve loved everything I’ve heard about him as a coach. 63% win percentage is a 50 win season in the NHL, and that’s what he’s averaged over his eight or so years in Quebec.

  12. Isn’t Tippett’s name being floated around as somebody who might wind up being available soon? Or is that mostly just wild speculation?

  13. The last 2 years ,his junior hockey club lost againts opposant in the playoff ,opposant who was not favorite for win.The only raison why he has good team each year,it’s because with the money he bring the betters europens.The last playoff,the two most dominants player was players that he trade (Desjardins and Kucherov)…. Not very good trades. He is much worst as Gm.

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