Patrick Roy will always be a story in Montreal

 

 
 
 
 
Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy talks to linesman during National Hockey League pre-season game against the Canadiens in Montreal Thursday September 25, 2014.
 
 

Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy talks to linesman during National Hockey League pre-season game against the Canadiens in Montreal Thursday September 25, 2014.

Photograph by: John Mahoney, THE GAZETTE

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MONTREAL — It was six months ago that Patrick Roy was most recently at the Bell Centre, his Colorado Avalanche drubbed 6-3 that March night by the Canadiens — and a Thomas Vanek hat trick.

The legendary Habs netminder, in his rookie season behind the Avalanche bench, was featured that morning in a command-performance news conference, the room packed for a 30-minute four-ring circus — two of Roy’s Stanley Cup rings were earned in Montreal, two more followed in Colorado.

Roy said he hadn’t taken a look up during his team’s game-day morning skate to see his No. 33 banner hanging in the arena rafters, but admitted he had stolen a glance a little earlier.

“Just to make sure it’s still there,” he joked. “No dust on it, (to) make sure they clean it. It’s perfect.”

On Thursday, back in the Bell Centre for a preseason game against his old team, Roy again held morning court with the media. Had he looked, he’d have noticed that his banner still looks great.

But this time, in sweats shortly before the Avalanche skate, Roy was not in a conference room but standing outside the dressing room, meeting reporters in separate waves of French, then English.

Patrick Roy remains and always will be a story in Montreal — for his career, his controversial 1995 departure, the reconciliation six-and-a-half years ago and 2008 jersey retirement, and his rebirth as a terrific NHL coach.

He’s always happy to be back in Montreal, said Roy, the backbone of Canadiens teams that won the club’s 23rd and 24th championships in 1986 and 1993.

“Even more this time,” he said of his second return, pointing out that his players were eagerly anticipating the Habs-Avalanche doubleheader of Montreal on Thursday and Quebec City on Friday.

Both cities are friendly turf for Roy, Montreal the site of his otherworldly goaltending, the provincial capital being where he ran the major-junior Quebec Remparts for a decade.

“All the veterans wanted to be part of it,” he said of this trip.

Roy was fêted during his homecoming four months ago by a sellout crowd which rose to its feet during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, when he was shown on the giant scoreboard.

The ovation swamped the anthem and gave blush to a man who doesn’t embarrass easily.

“I was looking down and pretending I didn’t see it,” Roy would later say.

He would be the runaway winner of the NHL’s Jack Adams Award as the league’s outstanding coach, his 399 points in voting outdistancing the 163 of Detroit Red Wings runner-up Mike Babcock.

Roy led the Avalanche to a stunning improvement last season, the club’s 52 victories matching a franchise high. Their fiery coach took the Avalanche from a 29th-place ranking in 2012-13 to third place overall, winning the Western Conference Central Division.

It was the first time since the NHL’s 1979 expansion to 21 teams that a club vaulted from the bottom three to the top three in one year.

I asked Roy on Thursday how much winning the Adams had changed him, fully expecting the reply that came.

“Not very much, to be honest,” he said. “I’m grateful to my players. I appreciate what they’ve been doing for me as a coach, how receptive they’ve been to everything we’ve been doing.

“There’s a lot of coaches who probably are — not probably, they are — better than me, but I believe I’m going to continue to learn.”

And then, the famously crooked grin.

“The worst part of this is, I’m sure I’m going to be a better coach along the way and I’m never going to win the Jack Adams again. It was a great year, it was fun, but now it’s behind us and we want to look (forward).”

The Avalanche fell early in last season’s playoffs, knocked off in a seven-game quarter-final by Minnesota, but that did nothing to dull Roy’s lustre.

That Colorado put up 112 points in the regular season was a staggering feat, a tribute to the team and to the coach who galvanized their thinking, getting everyone to buy what he was selling.

Those 112 points are not the bar that Roy has set for this season.

“We’re just trying to be honest,” he said. “We’re playing in a tough conference and it’s pretty easy to be humble in that conference. The quality of the teams, you know that in order to make the playoffs you have to be outstanding all year.

“A lot of factors are important. Injuries are one of them. Last year we were lucky, we didn’t have many injuries and this is a big factor. We could have as good of a year (this season), maybe better than last year and not have 112 points.

“We want to make sure we continue to get better. Our young guys need to continue to grow. This is how we’re going to measure ourselves, not by our number of points.”

Roy has plenty to work with, the key cogs in the Avalanche gears well oiled and finely tuned for another season.

Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon should be a stud at centre, playing with fellow youngsters Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene.

Ryan O’Reilly won the Lady Byng, taking just one minor penalty while racking up a career-high 64 points.

Colorado added veteran leadership in Daniel Brière, sending P.A. Parenteau to the Canadiens in return, and signed free-agent forward Jarome Iginla, a 30-goal scorer with Boston last season.

And in nets, goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s 41 victories last year eclipsed by one Roy’s team record.

The head coach has given himself a heck of an act to follow. If fans are wondering about any sophomore jinx that may lay in wait for sniper MacKinnon, so will it be interesting to see how Roy performs in Year 2.

What he told an overflow Montreal media crowd four months ago still stands up today.

“There’s nothing you can do about what happened in the first or second period, it’s what you’re going to do in the third,” Roy said that March morning.

“How many times did (former Canadiens captain) Mike Keane say, ‘You don’t have to play your best to win a game, but you have to find a way every night.’ That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

dstubbs@montrealgazette.com

Twitter: Dave_Stubbs

 
 
 
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Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy talks to linesman during National Hockey League pre-season game against the Canadiens in Montreal Thursday September 25, 2014.
 

Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy talks to linesman during National Hockey League pre-season game against the Canadiens in Montreal Thursday September 25, 2014.

Photograph by: John Mahoney, THE GAZETTE

 
Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy talks to linesman during National Hockey League pre-season game against the Canadiens in Montreal Thursday September 25, 2014.
Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy speaks to the Montreal media on Thursday September 25, 2014. Roy and his team are in Montreal for a pre-season game with the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. The Habs and Colorado meet again on Friday in Quebec City.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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