Patrick Roy. (Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
Patrick Roy's abrupt departure from the Avalanche wasn't a shock -- it was typical behaviour.
There was nothing shocking about Patrick Roy’s abrupt departure as coach and vice-president of hockey operations with the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
On the contrary, it was typical behavior from the Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender. When Roy doesn’t get his way, he packs up and goes home.
He did it with the Montreal Canadiens and he once stiffed the Canadian Olympic team.
Listen, Roy can do whatever the heck he wants. He was a great goaltender – one of the best ever – and he has enjoyed success as both a junior coach/executive and NHL coach. He doesn’t seem to care about his reputation, so why should we?
There was a time when it seemed absolutely unimaginable that Roy would not play his entire career with the Canadiens. After leading Montreal’s Sherbrooke-based American League team to the Calder Cup in 1984-85, he stunned the hockey world by becoming the youngest player ever to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in leading the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup the following season, 1985-86.
In 1992-93 Roy worked his magic again. After finishing third in their division in the regular season and then dropping the first two games of the playoffs to their bitter rivals, the Quebec Nordiques, Roy kicked it into gear and backstopped the Habs to 11 straight victories as Montreal again won the Cup with Roy once again named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Roy’s days in Montreal did not have a storybook ending. Rather, things came to an abrupt ending when, in the midst of an 11-1 shellacking to the Detroit Red Wings – the Canadiens worst home defeat in franchise history – Roy stormed past coach Mario Tremblay after being pulled in the second period and told Canadiens team president, Ronald Corey, who was sitting behind the bench, “It is my last game in Montreal.”
Roy told the media Tremblay kept him in goal despite having allowed five goals on 17 shots in the first period to humiliate him. Roy wound up allowing nine goals on 26 shots before being yanked. He was suspended by the Canadiens and ultimately traded to the Avalanche where he went on to win two more Cups.
In 2001 when Canada’s executive director, Wayne Gretzky, was putting together the team that would compete in the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Roy declined the opportunity to represent his country, saying he had done it before.
“I was there before and it’s certainly going to give a chance to another guy to play,” Roy stated.
Many believe Roy’s nose was out of joint because he was not assured of being Canada’s starting goalie. The job was open to Roy, Curtis Joseph, Ed Belfour and Martin Brodeur. As it turned out, Joseph was the starter only to be replaced by Brodeur after a tournament-opening defeat to Sweden and Canada went on to defeat the United States in the gold medal game.
Upon retirement, Roy became a successful owner, manager and coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, winning the Memorial Cup in 2006.
It seemed like only a matter of time before Roy took his act back to the NHL so it was no surprise when he was named coach of the Avalanche in 2013. What was somewhat surprising, though, was the fact he was also named VP of Hockey Ops which gave him a say in personnel decisions. It was that decision that seems to have ultimately led to his departure from the organization.
One year after the Avalanche finished 29th (16-25-7) to miss the playoffs for the third straight season, Roy guided the mostly young group to a third overall finish and not surprisingly he was named winner of the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. Colorado, however, lost out in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and missed the dance in the subsequent two seasons.
It is one thing to coach young players and quite another to be partially responsible for possibly trading them. That seemed to be the crux of how things went off the rails for Roy and the Avs. Roy said he needed to be a part of the decision-making regarding the roster and he didn’t feel that need was being met.
So he packed it in.
If I had one hockey game to play and could pick any goalie in history to be in net for my team, I would choose Patrick Roy. If I was running a hockey organization and could choose any coach in NHL history, Roy wouldn’t make the top 100. For my money there’s simply too much ‘me’ and not enough ‘we’ in his game.