Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said former coach Patrick Roy was consulted on the organization’s moves and decisions and there weren’t overt and obvious disagreements on the direction of the team.
Earlier in the day Roy released a statement announcing he would leave the team because his vision didn’t “perfectly align” with Colorado’s. Roy was also the organization’s vice president of hockey operations.
“We always talked. He was aware of everything,” Sakic said. “The big thing when he talked to me today was last year was a tough year, he didn’t have a lot of fun and we always said as long as we’re enjoying what we’re doing and having fun we’ll keep doing it. He said in the last three, four weeks he just really contemplated not coming back and not coaching and thought he made the right decision for himself. I totally respect him for that.”
Said Roy in his statement, “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 and bring it to a higher level. 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.”
Sakic noted Roy was consulted less than the past years, but that was because he didn’t need to lean on Roy as much as their first year together in 2013-14.
“Patrick was consulted on everything,” Sakic said. “Obviously early on, as I was getting comfortable in my role, I relied upon him more. Now as we built up our staff and a staff that we all really trust, especially in season, it allowed that Patrick’s decisions were focused more on coaching and then in the offseason we started working on free agents together. But this year, this free agency, we knew we weren’t going to be able to do much because we were focusing on (signing restricted free agents) Nathan (MacKinnon) and Tyson (Barrie).”
Sakic said Roy called him Thursday morning to tell him that he would leave the team. The decision caught Sakic off guard, but he understood why his former teammate made the choice. The two won two Stanley Cups in Colorado together and both of their numbers are retired by the team.
“This is the decision that Patrick called me today and informed me the last three or four weeks he was wrestling with this and he just let me know that he was going to resign today,” Sakic said. “I just asked him if he wanted to give it some more thought and he said he was very comfortable with that. I said, ‘You know what, I totally respect that,’ and I appreciated that he let me know now. We know that coaching, it’s a grind, and he wasn’t at that stage where he wanted to coach another year. I just told him I thanked him, I appreciated it and I’ll see him on the golf course in a couple months.”
Sakic said Roy noted that he wasn’t enjoying himself, and that was the main reason why he came to his choice.
“He didn’t have a lot of fun last year and over the last month or so, he came to this decision on his own. There’s nothing but the utmost respect for somebody who comes to that decision and tells you before you get going in the season,” Sakic said.
The end of Roy’s 2015-16 season was contentious with him blasting leading goal scorer Matt Duchene for a celebration after his 30th goal of the year in a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Sakic was asked whether this situation with Duchene created any tension with Roy, who also had called out the team’s core on a local radio station near the end of the year.
“At the time I think to be honest with you we were struggling the stretch and as a coaching staff, all of us and the players, (we were) frustrated with the way things were going. That happens.”
In 2013-14 Roy led the Avalanche to a Central Division title and 52-22-8 record. That year Roy won the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s coach of the year.
Since then the team failed to make the playoffs, and Roy has often found himself battling the perception that he was not friendly to the league’s analytical, puck possession movement.
Sakic said Roy was in line with the team’s decision to become more analytics friendly last year, and this wasn’t an issue. According to Corsica, the Avalanche had the second-worst score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF% in the NHL at 44.75 from 2013-14 through 2015-16.
“We had analytics last year. We didn’t just go and promote it,” Sakic said. “We were always looking at that to find different ways to get better.”
As for future coaching candidates, Sakic said the team will go outside the organization to find their next bench boss. He said there is no timetable, but would like to have someone in place before training camp next month. Even though Roy had been critical of the team’s top players, Sakic didn’t have a problem with the group.
Matt Duchene scored 30 goals last season and had 70 points two seasons ago. MacKinnon was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft and still has loads of potential. As an 18-year-old rookie he won the Calder Trophy with 63 points in 82 games. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is just 23 and has notched between 52 and 65 points in each of his full seasons. Barrie and Erik Johnson are both solid puck-moving defensemen.
“(Our core) is going to have a new voice. That was Patrick that made that decision, so now myself and my staff we’re going to get together tomorrow and look at candidates and go ahead and try and find the right guy to take us to the next level,” Sakic said. “Yes, we believe in the core. We know they’ve got to take another step, and we believe they will. We believe we’re heading in the right direction.”
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