By Allan Muir
Looks like Stephane Roy knew what he was talking about after all.
His brother, Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, finally was named as the new head coach of the Colorado Avalanche after days of speculation.
It’s a hiring that should energize a disaffected fan base, and stabilize a position that has seen five changes in the past 10 years.
But Roy faces a tall challenge, and not just the obvious task of making a winner out of a roster that, for the moment, is overly reliant on young talent and lacks the depth to match up with the top teams in the Western Conference.
The most intriguing element of the announcement is that Roy also was named vice-president of hockey operations.
On the surface, it might seem that the additional responsibilities were included to justify a more significant financial package (that’s just an assumption at this point–contract details have yet to be announced). But this will give him a voice in player personnel decisions that no other coach officially has. And while executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic is expected to have final say in roster discussions, you can expect that Roy is expected to be an active participant in the process. That sets up a fascinating dynamic in a crowded front office that also includes GM Greg Sherman (yep, he’s still there) and Pierre Lacroix, the former GM and now minister without portfolio who has never really given up his Svengali-like influence on the organization.
We may see the strength of Roy’s hand revealed for the first time as the Avs consider the options that come with having the first overall pick in this year’s draft. It’s been assumed to this point that their choice would be Seth Jones, the franchise-caliber defenseman with strong ties to the Denver area and Sakic himself.
But he’s not a slam-dunk selection–after all, no defender has lived up to the weight of being the first selection since Denis Potvin in 1973. And Roy likely has some unique insights on Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Droun, the Halifax Mooseheads teammates who are equally worthy of being taken with the pick. Roy’s Quebec Remparts played against the duo just twice a year, but there was no avoiding their influence and impact on the QMJHL. That first-hand experience may make him a very influential voice in what is sure to be a franchise-altering decision.
However it plays out, Roy’s presence is certain to make the Avalanche one of the most closely watched teams heading into 2013-14.