DENVER — It’s rare that Hall of Fame-caliber players become great coaches or managers in any sport. Their greatness was usually so instinctive that they find it difficult to tell other players how to play; they just did what they did without thinking about it. In some cases ego might have prevented them from gaining valuable minor-league coaching experience before taking a major-league job.
Former goaltender Patrick Roy, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, three-time winner of the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs and 2006 Hall of Fame inductee, has done enough preparation to have a good chance to be an exception to the rule that great players don’t usually become great coaches.
Roy, fiery as a player, will make his NHL coaching debut Wednesday night with the Colorado Avalanche, the team he led to two Cup titles after he had won two titles with the Montreal Canadiens. Hired in May by his former Colorado teammate Joe Sakic, now the Avalanche’s executive vice president of hockey operations, Roy comes to the job with experience and a strong grounding after having coached the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and winning the Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian junior hockey.
Colorado goaltender J.S. Giguere, who grew up idolizing Roy, said Roy has already had an influence on a team that has missed the playoffs the last three seasons and four of the last five.
“He’s been great. He’s been very demanding on the guys,” Giguere said. “He’s got us out of our comfort zone, which is good when you finish almost last.
“I think guys, we tend to be a little too comfortable with losing and not working hard enough. There were a few of us who were outside of our comfort zones in training camp, and it’s not a fun place to be at, but it’s the place you should be if you want to win.”
Roy, who will turn 48 on Saturday, said he feels prepared for the task of guiding the Avalanche after turning the job down four years ago.
“I think I did my step. I started by going to junior and working with junior players,” he said Wednesday. “Here I am, eight years later, 10 years later, I think I’m better ready, I would say, for that challenge. For sure, I have a better understanding of what I want to do out there.
“If I would have taken the job in ’09 I don’t think I would have been ready. Today, I am so much better because of those years. I think the last four have been very important in a way that helped me to understand things better and my approach with the players. Things have changed over the days since I have retired.
“The reason why I think we’re going to have some success is because we’re going to work hard. We’re here early in the morning and we certainly know how to work hard. We’re going to put the time in that it takes for us to win and be a better team and help the players have options out there and always come up with solutions.”
Center Paul Stastny said the enthusiasm and energy generated by Sakic and Roy has had a positive effect on players. Stastny said Roy has been approachable and has brought new insights to every aspect of the game.
“He’s smart, a lot smarter than people think,” Stastny said. “Not just defensively. Offensively, he can read a lot of plays so I think he helps out the forwards more than I think we thought …. We’re always learning little things, whether it’s in practice or in games, and he’s always trying to help us out. He’s motivated as much as we are and we kind of feed off each other in that.”
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