Welcome to the Roy Report! Every Wednesday, Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy peels back the curtain on the team during an in-depth radio interview on FM 104.3 The Fan. Even if you missed it, BSN Denver has your back, providing both a recap and analysis to keep you up to speed.
20th Anniversary Night
Roy kicked things off by talking about how great the night before the game was for those involved in the 20th Anniversary team. It seems he really enjoyed catching up with many of his former teammates - Valeri Kamensky, Sandis Ozolinsh, Ray Bourque, Peter Forsberg, and others - and sharing stories and memories. He felt the Avs did a very good job organizing the overall event, and it proved to be a special evening.
As far as the game Monday night, the coach was pleased with how the team bounced back after a very poor effort on Saturday. They were better in their 1-on-1 battles, getting to the puck quickly, and giving up less offensively.
He also complimented the first goal of the night, scored by Tyson Barrie. When asked if that's how coaches draw plays up, he replied that he tries, but he's not sure he could illustrate the play as well as they completed it.
Monday's game also marked one of the rare times this season the Avs have been involved in a 3- on-3 OT. Roy typically likes to deploy two forwards and one defenseman in these situations, and the team's goal is to possess the puck as much as possible from the top circle to blueline, then generate offense from there. He felt that was exactly what happened on the winning shot, as Mitchell came from the sideboards to the front of the net and made a perfect shot. That goal was also the Play of the Week.
However, in the 3-on-3 format, if you go on the rush and miss the net, you know you're in trouble because the other team is going back the other way 2-on-1. It makes it very exciting.
The coach was then asked if he feels 3-on-3 is real hockey, and his simple response was yes. He definitely prefers it to the shootout, where a 1-on-1 battle determines the game. In 3-on-3, there's some strategy, team play, and bears more resemblance to the hockey played in the rest of the game. If a winner can't be found using this method, he's still okay with the shootout, but 3-on-3 this opens up the game, increases scoring chances, and makes it more entertaining for fans.
As far as player usage is concerned, he'll typically use MacKinnon with either Landeskog or Duchene, but a lot of it is based on who he thinks is having a good game. Last night, he was impressed with Mitchell and his line of Iginla and Tanguay, so he felt very comfortable putting him on the ice with Duchene.
Pregame Ceremony & Pressure
Roy partially agreed that the team did want to do well for the 20th Anniversary team in attendance, but this game was more than that. After a very poor showing in Minnesota, they needed a bounce back game. It was also against a divisional opponent, so a win was critical if they wanted to get closer to the playoff picture. The club now has 2 wins in a row at home, they're playing well defensively, and have won 3 of their 4 games. Overall, Roy was pleased.
In the NHL, only Arizona has played fewer than the Avs' 11 home games, which means there will be plenty of them across the rest of the season. Roy's been fairly happy with the team's performance on the road, even though he did say he'd liked to have a few more wins here and there. Even so, if the team plays .500 on the road and is 8-10 games over .500 at home, that should put them at least close to making the post season. They know their record is important, and being able to play well for the "great" fans is yet another positive.
Memories & Jersey Retirements
Evidently, the recently retired Sandis Ozolinsh has changed the most since Roy last saw the group. With a laugh, the coach said, "He talked more that night than in the three or four years I played with him." The team also used to joke that Ozolinsh and Kamensky were such good skaters they could skate all the way to Russia without even getting tired.
Talk then turned to Ray Bourque and his retired number. Roy was very diplomatic, saying that at the time, the organization felt it was the right move to quickly lift the banner. It's a decision they've carried on through the other retirements, waiting about a year before hoisting the number. There's no doubt that Bourque had a huge positive impact on the team, but winning the Stanley Cup really opened up the possibility of a retired jersey. Roy said it's the main reason why his 33 was retired by Montreal as well.
He also learned young that winning the Cup is about teamwork, which is more important that individual contributions. It's also something special when you win together. Even now when they meet up, it brings back memories as they talk about past and the present, and it makes it really fun.
The architect of the Avs championships was honored at the 20th Anniversary celebration as well. After many years of troubling health concerns, Lacroix is doing good and seemed really sharp. He was Roy's agent when he started in the NHL, and it was a loss for the young player when Lacroix took the GM job with the Quebec Nordiques. He was happy to be reunited with him in Denver after the trade, but the GM-player relationship was different than their previous one. Even so, Roy stated it was nice winning Cups with him, and the coach believes that the club did a great job honoring him.
When asked if Lacroix should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Roy admitted he didn't know the criteria for GMs off the top of his head. However, "he did a good job, so why not?"
The Trade to Colorado
Since the nostalgia was already rolling, Roy was asked what it was like coming from Montreal to Denver. He admitted it was a little tough at the beginning since his wife at the time and childern didn't speak English, but their neighbors and the families of the other French Canadians on the team helped them transition.
From the hockey standpoint, the sport was just coming back to Denver, so there was a lot of excitement surrounding the team. However, in Montreal, all the sports media coverage focused on the Habs. The closest comparison in Colorado is the Broncos, but there are a ton of other sports as well, and the local fans are very supportive of all of them.
Salary Cap & the Draft
Both of the Avalanche Stanley Cups were won in the pre salary cap era, and Roy believes winning today is much different than it was back then. To be successful in the modern league, the draft is the key.
If you don't draft well, you're not going to survive. You can have a good run, but after that, you're going to get back in the bottom of the league. And that's been the problem for the Avalanche. You look at our roster, and there's only four guys coming from the draft. Out of the four guys, three of them have been drafted 1st overall, 2nd overall, or 3rd Overall.
You really need to draft well, and that's something we haven't done in the past. I guess this is one of the reasons why Joe and I have a job today. That's a thing we've been trying to change.
He then used Chicago as an example. Yes, they drafted Kane, Towes, Keith, Seabrook, and Crowford, but now that they've lost a few guys like Byfuglien and Sharp, but they have young guys coming from the draft to take over. Roy believes this is how successful teams maintain their salary structure. If teams try to use expensive free agency, they're cooked. There's no way to maintain a winning culture and tradition unless your drafting is strong.
Reto Berra will be in net tonight, but Semyon Varlamov will take over next game. Roy felt his starting netminder has been really good in this past three starts. He was very solid in New York, but was phenomenal in Minnesota even though "the team [expletive] the bed in front of him". That game could have been 5-0 after two periods without his stellar play.
He also had a strong showing on Monday night, including the saves he made in OT. That's just the way 3-on-3 is with it's back and forth play and large number of 2-on-1 situations. The outcome of those games really comes down to which goalie makes the saves and which one makes the first small mistake.
Overall, Roy's very happy with Varly and the energy he's bringing to his game. His confidence is improving, which is good because the team will need him on the next big road trip to Nashville, St. Louis, and Chicago, plus the home stand that occurs directly after.
Cole Harbour Boys & Some Penguin Notes
Since the game is on national TV tonight, the topic of Crosby and MacKinnon was brought up. They're very close despite an eight year difference in age. Roy thinks a lot of it has to do with the respect and support they have for each other since they're from the same hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. The community really supports them too, which makes it easier to have a connection.
When asked who was better, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, Roy stated that he can't answer that today since he's not followed them enough this year. He then chastised the hosts with a "you don't think I have enough with my own team?" and a laugh. Crosby as 26 games with only 6 goals and a -9 rating, but Roy shrugged it off, since a good player like that will find his way.
[All I'm going to say is 1) watch the Tim Hortons commercials and 2) we're all going to be dead if we take a shot every time NBCSN mentions a certain small town in Canada tonight.]
Even though everyone from the 20th anniversary celebration has headed back home, Roy reiterated what a great job the club did. On behalf of all of them, he thanked the organization for a great time.