DENVER (The Sports Xchange) – Patrick Roy’s abrupt resignation Thursday as the Colorado Avalanche head coach and vice president of hockey operations comes as a shock, but only because of the timing.
There always seemed to be a little disconnect between Roy’s vision and that of the rest of the front office, and that apparently came to an impasse 40 days before the Avalanche are scheduled to open training camp.
Roy wanted more input on personnel decisions, and he said in a statement announcing his resignation that wasn’t happening. So he is gone.
Why the rift? And why now?
There were grumblings as the Avalanche wrapped up a disappointing 2015-16 season that there was some professional tension between Roy and the Colorado front office. Roy said he was returning when he was asked if he was coming back and cited a good relationship with executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic.
He also thought the Avalanche needed to make bold roster moves in the offseason. Roy often pointed out the dearth of prospects in the minor-league system, which was a reason for bringing him on after years of bad drafts. It was also a reason to find talent in other franchises.
But this summer Colorado did nothing more than lock up talented center Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Tyson Barrie. No big trades, no big signings, so Roy was headed into his fourth season as the coach with essentially the same team that had underachieved the past two seasons.
A big factor in staying out of the free-agency market is the salary cap. Colorado is $1 million under the $73 million figure, so any big moves would have required trading a core player.
Making a trade might have been Roy’s preference but apparently that was not the case for the rest of the front office, so he left, and at least publicly it’s an amicable parting.
“I am grateful to the Colorado Avalanche organization, with which I remain in good terms, for letting me lead this great team,” Roy said in a written statement. “I thank all the players I have had the pleasure of coaching and the fans for their unwavering, unconditional support.
“I remain forever loyal to the Avalanche with which I played 478 games, coached another 253, and won two Stanley Cups.”
He is not exactly burning bridges, but the timing is curious because it comes a little more than a month before training camp. Surely Roy met with the front office months ago and a plan was laid out for the offseason. If Colorado wasn’t going to listen to Roy then why did he wait another two or three months to leave? Why not walk away then?
The guess here is he kept pushing his agenda but it fell on deaf ears. Once he realized his ideas were not part of the bigger picture, he resigned.
It is a sad ending to what was a happy marriage when Roy took over three years ago. He was courted by Sakic and president Josh Kroenke, who felt he was the best choice to lead one of the youngest rosters in the NHL despite Roy having only coached at the Major Junior level.
But the fact that he was a Hall of Fame goaltender — one many consider the best ever — and an Avalanche icon made his hiring a splash for a franchise that failed to make the playoffs in five of the seven previous seasons.
And then he went out and led a surprising turnaround. Colorado won 52 games in 2013-14, he won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL coach of the year and the Avalanche landed the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. But Colorado’s Game 7 home loss to Minnesota in overtime — a game they led in the final three minutes — in the first round was devastating, and the team still hasn’t recovered.
Roy’s leaving puts the Avalanche in a difficult position. The three assistant coaches, Tim Army, David Farrish and newly hired Nolan Pratt, have no NHL head coaching experience. The only name coach on the market is Bob Hartley, who led the Avalanche to the 2001 Stanley Cup before being fired 18 months later.
It is not exactly an ideal picture this close to the start of the season, but it’s what Colorado is facing.
The solution? The Avalanche made a splash by reaching into past glory to hire Roy three years ago, so they may go to the well again with Hartley.
That might be their only option now.