Patrick Roy, head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Not this season, obviously, with Roy at the helm of the playoff-bound Colorado Avalanche. And not two seasons ago, when Roy was up for the Habs’ opening but ultimately was passed over for Michel Therrien. GM Marc Bergevin wasn’t going to go with a rookie bench boss that was determined to dabble in the dark arts of player personnel. Therrien was, in every sense, more manageable.
“I was happy to go through [the process], thought it was a great experience for myself, and I was very interested in coaching the team,” said Roy to TSN.
So of course Roy comes back as the savior of Colorado hockey, his team, having amassed 93 points in the Western Conference with a goal differential of plus-28. And of course the Habs have a coach that has them in the playoffs but that no one in Montreal seems to like all that much. Especially when St. Patrick is in town.
“Two years ago, I was (fans’) No. 1 for coach and GM. I could have had both jobs if it was voted by fans. I truly appreciate that. I thought that was a great gesture, for them to give me that opportunity to be on top. That made me feel good with the fans,” said Roy to the Gazette.
“It’s not that I had doubt, but at the same time it was nice to see that the past was way behind us and everybody had moved on. They could see me as their next coach or GM. For the ego, I have to admit, that felt good.”
It feels good, too, that Dec. 5, 1995, was behind him, as was his declaration of divorce from the Canadiens. That the reconciliation roughly five years ago, highlighted by both his No. 33 hanging from the rafters and his participation in the Habs’ (seemingly endless) centennial celebration, had mended that relationship with the fans.
Roy’s image rehabilitation has been an under-reported and underestimated aspect of this coaching career. What once was a malcontent is now a company man. What was a wild-eyed coach that could tear into his own team has now become a calming presence for the Avalanche getting “smartest guy in the room” accolades written about him. In a year with multiple worthy candidates, Roy’s going to win the Jack Adams – tell me you saw that coming when he was readjusting the glass in front of Bruce Boudreau in his NHL debut?
And now, nearly 20 years after the incident, he’s a man loved by the Habs and a man that loves the Habs.
“I was so happy to get back into the Canadiens family,” Roy said of his reconciliation.
Will he ever coach the Habs? This could easily be the sort of unfulfilled destiny as Marty Brodeur one day tending goal for them or Vinny Lecavalier being their No. 1 center, but it’s undeniable that if the timing had been better, Roy would already been coaching them.
He could coach in Colorado for the next 10 years. Then, if the opportunity comes around again in Montreal, he’ll be a successful NHL coach rather than a junior hockey question mark with impressive endorsements. He’ll have player personnel experience. He’ll have the opportunity to have the Canadiens come calling for him, rather than applying to be their guy.
And they will come calling, eventually. Because just like Patrick Roy’s prestigious career, combined with that of Joe Sakic, soothed the concerns of disgruntled Avalanche fans, the nostalgic jolt of Patrick Roy leading the Montreal Canadiens would do the same for Habs fans when they need him.
Not now. Not in the foreseeable future. But perhaps one day will be St. Patrick’s Day in Montreal.