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Thursday, May 23, 2013
Roy and Sakic make the Avs relevant again

By Pierre LeBrun


What had become almost a doormat (dormant?) NHL franchise now has life again.

First, Joe Sakic agreed last month to become more of a factor in the day-to-day running of the Colorado Avalanche, becoming executive vice president of hockey operations.

Then on Thursday, confirming weeks of speculation, Patrick Roy became the team's new coach.

Next month in Newark, N.J., the Avs will have the first overall pick in the NHL draft, which most believe they will use to select stud defenseman Seth Jones, a kid who dreamed of playing in the NHL because he grew up watching Roy and Sakic win two Stanley Cups in Colorado.

Bang. Just like that, the Avalanche are back.

With two Hall of Famers now at the helm, and perhaps a future Hall of Famer to be drafted June 30, the team in Denver has been rescued from irrelevancy.

Because frankly, that's what the Avs had become the past few years, irrelevant in their market and certainly around the league. There was no buzz whatsoever surrounding the team.

Greg Sherman is a very nice man, and I've always enjoyed my conversations with him, but is there a general manager with less of a profile in the entire league?

In many ways, that reflected what the franchise has become. The problem in Colorado is that ownership hasn't cared about the hockey team for a few years, and it showed on the ice.

Suddenly, the Avs' image has undergone a drastic makeover. And it took two of the legends who first made hockey cool in Denver two decades ago to make it happen.

Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy is headed back to Colorado, where he helped the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup title in 1996.
Sakic and Roy. Back together. Running the Avalanche.

And yes, I include Roy in the "running the Avalanche" category because that's exactly what he'll be doing.

He didn't leave Quebec City just to stand behind the bench. As the news release stated Thursday: "The organization has reached an agreement in principle with Patrick Roy to become the franchise’s Head Coach/Vice President of Hockey Operations."

If I were the Avs' public relations department, I would have put the "Vice President of Hockey Operations" part in bold letters.

Because you had better believe Roy never would have agreed to join the club without a guarantee that he will have a say in the makeup of the team. He will have a say in any future trades or signings.

And you have to believe he one day will be the general manager of the team.

For now, Roy and Sakic will have to pull the club back into the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Colorado has missed out in four of the past five seasons.

Roy inherits a team with good young players, particularly up front with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly.

The Avs are thin on defense, and the aforementioned Jones certainly would help change that if the team does indeed draft him over electric forward Nathan MacKinnon. And it just so happens Roy has seen MacKinnon play up close in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League the past two seasons. Just saying.

Of course, some will wonder if Roy is up to the task of coaching in the NHL. I think there's no question about it. His eight seasons coaching the Quebec Remparts is more than enough to help him learn the coaching ropes. He's ready for this.

And you can be sure it won't be boring with Roy in the fold. He's cocky and confident, and boy, can he be emotional. But he's a winner.

Buckle up, Avs fans, because this is about to get really interesting. Been a while since you heard that about your team, right?