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.
Building off the Roadtrip
The Avs finished their historically long road trip with a 4-3-0 record, culminating with a win against the Jets in Winnipeg. Their coach was obviously proud and pleased, calling that game a “gut check win”. After the 3-0 start, the Avs dropped the next 3 games, playing so-so in Toronto, dealing with questionable calls and not scoring the necessary big goal in Pittsburgh, and getting outworked and outplayed in Washington. These games negatively impacted their confidence, but the solid performance against a division rival now gives them something to build around.
The club finished with a .571 win percentage through those seven games, which, if extended over the season, would be a pretty solid year on the road. Now, Roy believes the Avs need to dominate at home. If they keep playing the way they did against Winnipeg, they’ll be fine.
[Apart from the Washington game, the Avs played pretty well this entire trip. Their underlying numbers have taken a huge jump towards respectability, and it’s clear that Roy’s message of getting shots on net is starting to sink in. It’s unfortunate that it took them this long in the season to start putting things together, but it’s nice to see some life from the club after a fairly pathetic start.]
Building off of the discussion about playing at home, the radio guys asked what the problem has been so far this year. Roy paused for a bit before pointing to the Minnesota game to start the year. The team came out with swagger, but the way they collapsed in the third period really hurt their confidence. They did bounce back against Dallas, but played only so-so against Boston, dropped tough losses to Carolina and Columbus, fell to San Jose after being tied, beat Calgary, but ended up on the wrong side of a 2-1 score against the Rangers. Roy pointed out that it’s not that they’re necessarily thinking about that Minnesota game, but the method in which they lost did affect the team’s confidence and performance through that next set of contests.
After the road trip, he believes that the team has finally moved past it, but it’s underscored to him as a coach that it’s not just about changing the culture in the dressing room; it’s about changing the mindset. There are still a lot of good, young players in the room, and it’s going to take some time to get them and the rest of the team onto a winning path mentally.
Tonight provides a good challenge in that respect. Most teams have a bit of a let down game during their first visit back to their building after a seven game road trip. Ottawa is a good team, so Roy already talked to the team about making sure they’re going to show up. They need to push the trip behind them and bring a very solid mindset into tonight’s game.
[Even though Roy didn’t use the word “fragile”, it was highly implied throughout the entire talk. This has always been a problem with this generation of Avs, especially when things aren’t going well. When they’re playing with swagger and not letting things get them down, this club is capable of winning the Central Division (hello, 2013-14), but the second they have to deal with any adversity – injuries, PDO returning to normal, visiting another building during the playoffs, or a breakdown in the third period – they disintegrate. What’s worse is that it takes them 20 games to move past it.
I believe there is something to the “winning mindset” that good teams have. We saw it here in Colorado when guys like Sakic, Forsberg, and Roy were at the helm of the dressing room. It’s not just about talent – it’s about staying even keel and believing they had the chance to win every game they played. Yes, those are tired hockey cliches, but it’s something this current group of Avs is terrible at. Their roster, by and large, has the talent to be somewhat successful team in this league, but the mental breakdowns and the self doubt affect their record probably as much as their underlying numbers and stats.
If there’s someway to get them out of their own heads and just playing hockey, their record should turn around fairly quickly. But, as Roy said, that’s not something that happens overnight. Even if the rest of this season is lost, if Roy and the rest of the coaches/leaders in the room can turn around that mindset and culture, it will set this team up for massive success in the future. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s what needs to be done.]
Going to the Net: The Story of Matt Duchene
Here is your play of the week:
Matt Duchene now has ten goals in the month of November. Is it enough to convince his coach that he’s finally figured it out? Yes, yes it is. Roy is very happy with the forward’s play. Duchene has such great hands and the ability to put away rebounds and tight shots, so now that he’s around the net more, those goals are starting to fall.
Roy gives credit to his linemates as well. Nathan MacKinnon‘s been doing a lot of really good things at center, which makes it much easier for a winger like Duchene to produce. Gabe Landeskog’s also been protecting the puck, driving the net, and playing well. As a unit, they’ve been possessing the puck and dominating other teams.
That line is the now and the future of the Avalanche. –Patrick Roy
Talk then turned to other players with magical hands. Bob Hartley used to always compliment Milan Hejduk, and Roy remembers how great Mario Lemeiux’s hands were, especially for a bigger player. People away backed away from him. There was then a sassy discussion about age and remembering players from the ’80s that is worth the listen if you get the chance.
[I think we’ve now discovered the secret to breaking Matt Duchene out of slumps: 1) play him with other world-class players, 2) remind him to go to the net, and 3) threaten to trade him out of Colorado. One does not simply take Duchene away from the Avs.]
The status of Semyon Varlamov was the next topic. Roy felt he looked really good against Winnipeg Monday night, particularly as the game went on. Due to Reto Berra‘s strong recent play, the team was able to take their time with Varlamov and make sure he was 100% ready to get back on the ice. Not only is he healthy, but it afforded him some time to work with goalie coach Francois Allaire to clean up some issues in his game, especially in regards to some of the pucks that were getting past him earlier in the season.
So-so starts happen, and the team didn’t help him out as much as they could have at times, but Roy reiterated that the team really needs Varlamov to be their MVP to bring confidence to their defensemen and the rest of the team. He felt that after the fluky goal that went in last night, Varlamov made some great saves, but the club overall did a good job blocking shots and keeping the Jets to the outside. That ability to battle back, both from the goalie and the team, plays into establishing the mindset Roy mentioned earlier in the show.
[Roy can’t come on the show and bluntly state that the defense still has issues. Throwing players under the bus by and large isn’t his style. However, the fact remains that the Avs D is still very much a work in progress, so for the Avs to be successful, they need a goalie that can save their bacon. When he’s on, Varalamov is that guy.
However, I question how well he’s adjusting to the block-heavy defense new assistant coach Dave Farrish is having the Avs run this year. Varlamov thrives on seeing the puck to make his athletic saves. Unlike Berra, he’s not a big guy, so even with proper positioning, he needs time to react. You start putting a ton of bodies between him and the shot, and he’s not going to have that time. Hopefully his time working with Allaire helped him find his confidence and adjust to this new style. Watching the team find a happy medium between blocking shots and letting Varly get eyes on it is going to be an interesting detail to watch as the year goes on.]
Bigger Net Debate
In the NHL right now, there’s a debate about increasing the size of the nets to create more scoring. Roy was asked if he agreed with bigger nets, and surprisingly, he did not. Instead, he’d like to see the league opt for smaller posts. Goalies are bigger than ever, but shrinking the size of the posts would mean more shots that ring off the irons would go in. He doesn’t know the exact materials that could accomplish this, but he believes that’s a good way to increase scoring.
He also doesn’t agree with shrinking the goalie pads. Players like Zdeno Chara have shots that have been clocked at 106 mph, so goalie protection is extremely important. There is the possibility to go overboard with the size of goalie equipment, but he doesn’t feel shrinking it just to increase scoring isn’t the way to go.
[This is a very interesting take on the debate, and one that could ultimately be a very happy middle ground. There are definitely materials out there that could stand up to NHL shots with a much smaller diameter, and it would mean that more pings turn into honkage, which is essentially what the pro-bigger net people are all about. But, on the flip side, it also appeases the purists who don’t want to see the traditional 4′ x 6′ net change in size. Consider me convinced, Patrick Roy.]
Alumni and Ottawa Prep
In recent days, Roy has been caught wearing goalie skates on the ice. He even has stated that he’s put on the pads again, all in preparation for the alumni game. When asked if he was going to be ready, he replied with “oh, that’s a tough one” and told them he’d let them know closer to February 28th. The radio hosts weren’t fooled – there’s no way a competitor like Patrick Roy isn’t ready for that game.
However, the coach is far more concerned right now with getting ready for the game happening tonight. Ottawa is a fast team with a lot of talent, four good lines, strong special teams, and a sharp goalie. They put together a nice string of wins after switching coaches last year, so the Avs need to make sure they have a lot of jump early if they want to have a good game.
After this brief homestand, the team will be back on the road. The hosts joked that the team is trying to play all of their road games before Christmas and just need to survive. Roy replied that they’re going to try to do more than survive, and this is a good moment in the season for the team to put some wins together.
[The alumni game is a bunch of retired guys playing a friendly game of shinny. It means nothing in the large scheme of things, and there are some players who are probably just going to be there to have a bit of fun and skate in a stadium outside. You’re crazy if you think Roy is one of them. He’s mellowed since his playing days, but I still expect some of that classic Patrick Roy fire to come out during the game. If he doesn’t at least mock threaten to fight every Wings goalie, I’m going to be very disappointed.
Ottawa will be a good challenge this evening. It seems mindset is going to be the theme of the week, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the team responds to that message.]