Derek Kessinger is a graduate of the University of Colorado who has covered Denver sports, and in particular hockey, for several years. He appears on 5280 Sports Network as a guest commentator.
Patrick Roy made a selfish move. The NHL Draft was six weeks ago, and Joe Sakic made it clear at that time that the team would move forward with its core. That’s Sakic, the Avalanche’s vice president of hockey operations and general manager — and Coach Roy’s boss. So if the media and fans knew, the Avalanche’s coach and VP must have also known.
So what’s he been doing for the past six weeks?
It’s clear now that Sakic saw the failings on the ice as a product of coaching rather than the talent. Clearly, Roy saw things differently and did not like being questioned. If Sakic agreed with his former teammate, he would have made major changes this off-season. Sakic has so many young players coveted by teams around the league. This was the summer to shake things up.
Instead, by standing pat, Sakic sent a message to Roy: Figure this out.
Instead, Roy quit on the team after the season. He just didn’t tell anyone until now.
Patrick Roy left on his terms — by quitting. At his best with the Avs, he coached on his terms. A general criticism of his last two years with the Avs was that Roy stopped being Patrick Roy behind the bench. He became more like every other coach in the league instead of trying to stay ahead of the curve.
The most compelling thing about Roy leaving the Colorado Avalanche right now is that we get to find out who was right.
Does this team have the talent to compete at an elite level under the right coach, or was the coach elevating this team beyond their potential?
It’s rare in sports that you actually are presented with the opportunity to find out who was right and who was wrong — however, it’s happened in recent years in Denver sports.
When Joel Quenneville went to Avalanche management after 2008, he told them that the current roster was not very good. The Avs management at the time, led by general manager Francois Giguere and president Pierre Lacroix, disagreed with Quenneville, so much so that they fired him.
How did that turn out?
Well, the Avalanche completely came undone the next year. It didn’t help that Joe Sakic missed most of his last professional season due to injury, but the whole team was a mess. Cody McLeod scored the third-most goals for the team, with 15. Peter Budaj proved that he could not be a number-one goaltender. The Avs were the worst team in the Western Conference.
Joel Quenneville has since won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Then there’s coach George Karl’s departure from the Denver Nuggets. Karl’s team in 2012-13 was exciting, high-flying and seemed destined for great things. Then, the team’s best player, Danilo Gallinari, was hurt for the year, and the Nuggets’ first-round opponent was the Golden State Warriors. Firing Karl certainty seems laughable in hindsight, knowing what the Warriors became.
Of course, the Warriors had to fire their coach, Mark Jackson, in order to become the NBA champions with the help of Steve Kerr. Even the Denver Broncos needed a new coach to win Super Bowl 50. Gary Kubiak doesn’t get enough credit for the tough calls he made last year in his first year with the Broncos.
As Avs fans, let’s hope the team finds the next Steve Kerr to coach and didn’t just lose Joel Quenneville. As long as Roy wants the job, it’s assumed that the Montreal Canadiens will soon be calling.
The Avs now have to sell themselves to a new set of coaching candidates and try to answer a question none of us can tangibly answer: Where’s the proof that the Avalanche are closer to contending than rebuilding?
This post originally appeared on 5280 Sports Network, now a part of Mile High Sports