Since Aaron Musick's departure, there's hasn't been enough Avalanche talk on HockeyBuzz and I wanted to take over that role, until an official blogger is assigned, to keep the Avalanche HockeyBuzz community up to date with the team. This is my first time writing a blog, and as a stray die hard fan from Montreal, I hope that I will be able to fill in the void.For my first entry, I wanted to make a recap of the busy off-season the Avalanche’s front office has had thus far.
After another disappointing season, finishing 16-25-9, good for last place in the Conference and 29th in the league, major changes were needed in Colorado to restore the franchise that is now only a shadow of the forgotten Glory years.
The shakeups began on, April 28th, when Head Coach Joe Sacco was fired after 4 years at the helm. Sacco showed promise in his first season, finishing with a 43-30-9 record, good for 2nd in the NW division and securing the 8th and final spot to make the post-season. The Avalanche were eliminated by the more powerful Sharks in 6 games, getting blown out in the final two games by a combined score of 10-2. The Avs then went 87-104-21 under the guidance of Sacco, failing to make the playoffs in three consecutive seasons effectively costing him his job. On the same day, Vice President of Hockey Operations, Eric Lacroix, left his position, likely foreseeing the major upcoming changes.
The next day, the NHL held the draft lottery. The Avalanche won with 18.8% odds, effectively moving them ahead of the Florida Panthers, who finished 30th, allowing them to have the first selection in one of the deepest draft of the past 10 years.
Speculation began after the season ended that Joe Sakic would finally take a larger role in the organization, which he had been preparing for these past 2 years. On May 10th, the biggest front office remodel in Avalanche history began. Owner and Govenor Josh Kroenke was named Team President, a title that had belonged to Pierre Lacroix since 2006. Lacroix has been in the organization since the 1994-95 season as General Manager, when the team was still the Quebec Nordiques, after a long career as a Player Agent. Lacroix remains on with the team, serving an advisory role. Hall of Famer Joe Sakic was promoted to Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, replacing Greg Sherman, who stayed as General Manager, a position he holds since 2009.
The first decision of the new regime was to fire Goalie Coach Kirk McLean, who had been with the team on a part time basis since 2010. Many speculated that McLean was the reason for the poor performances of netminder Semyon Varlamov, and considered the Goalie Coach an area with definite need of an upgrade, especially considering the goaltender’s great potential. Time had come for a more experienced, and possibly full time Coach, making this a required and welcomed dismissal.
Rumors ran wild about the possible hiring to Patrick Roy to be first addition Joe Sakic would make. Sakic had first declared he would hire a coach with previous NHL experience during his introductory conference, however quickly rectified his statement and interviewed Roy, along with Josh Kroenke. Patrick’s brother, Stéphane Roy, first reported the news on May 21st on Facebook, posting with a few spelling errors:” For all my friends I’d like you know before the officiel news spreads out that my older brother will be the new coach of the Colorado Avalanch.” The rumors were confirmed three days later, when Patrick Roy signed a four year, non-guaranteed contract, and was officially announced as the new Head Coach, the 6th in team history, and Vice President of Hockey Operations.
A lot of questions were asked on if Roy would be a good NHL coach and he was quickly compared to other Hall of Famer players turned coach, none of which had any particular success. Most media failed to point out however that none of the previous HoF’s had any coaching experience prior to suiting up behind an NHL bench. Patrick has been the Coach and General Manager of the Quebec Remparts since 2005, winning the Memorial Cup in his rookie season and never had a losing season. Roy brought the same passion and winning attitude he had as a player to his coaching style and will be a very well needed fire to a club that has seem uninspired lately.
Patrick Roy quickly proceeded with the hiring process of his coaching staff. With strong ties in Quebec, he convinced on May 29th, Coach and General Manager of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies since 2002, André Tourigny to make the jump to the NHL and join him as an Assistant. Tourigny won the Coach of the Year of the QMJHL in 2006, has been part of Team Canada World Junior Championships from 2010 to 2013, winning Silver in 2010 and 2011, and also won a Gold medal at the U-18 tournament in 2008 serving as an Assistant Coach.
Roy’s second hiring came on June 4th, when he reached an agreement with Goalie Coach and longtime friend, François Allaire. Allaire and Roy have had a long lasting work relationship dating back to Roy’s playing days, winning the Stanley Cup together in 1986 and 1993, keeping almost daily conversation after Roy’s trade to Colorado for the remainder of his playing career. François has also previously worked with current Avs back-up Goaltender, Jean-Sébastien Giguère, helping him win the Conn Smythe in 2003 and another Cup in 2007 with Anaheim. He had been working most recently with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who fired him in September 2012 stating his techniques were outdated, however giving Allaire no help at all with Jonas Gustavsson who never really panned out as an NHL goaltender, and a concussed James Reimer. If Varlamov can stay healthy and not suffer any more groin injuries, he could easily become an elite goaltender with the continued mentoring of Giguère and the knowledge and experience that Allaire brings. Allaire will only be working with the team on a part-time basis just like his predecessor, however is still a definite upgrade at the position.
Two days later, on June 6th, it was announced by Quebec news affiliates that Mario Duhamel would be joining the organization as their new Video Coach. Duhamel has previously been coaching the Drummondville Voltigueurs for four seasons, leading them to a 162-87-23 record. Before taking the Head Coaching position there, he was the Assistant Coach of André Tourigny with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The new coaching staff completely molded to Patrick Roy’s liking, it is evident that upper management has full trust in Roy, something we haven’t had for a coach in Colorado for too long.
With a new fiery coach and his chosen staff, Greg Sherman now only implied in contract discussion, a perfect role for a former accountant, and Joe Sakic having final say on Hockey Operations, I strongly believe that the Avalanche are finally turning a leaf and are heading towards a brighter future.