Friday, November 1, 2013
Patrick Roy against Habs not a normal night
By Pierre LeBrun
Editor's note: The Colorado Avalanche said they won't comment on the serious allegations against goaltender Semyon Varlamov until the conclusion of the police investigation.
Normally nobody likes back-to-back games, but in this case, Patrick Roy will take it.
With his Colorado Avalanche in Dallas on Friday night to face the Stars, it’s the perfect tonic to keep his mind off what awaits him the next night, when the former Montreal Canadiens star faces the Habs for the first time as an NHL head coach.
"I’ll be honest, because of the game against the Stars, I’m really just trying to look at it like another game," Roy told ESPN.com Thursday in an interview conducted in French. "But I know when I get behind the bench Saturday night and I see the Red, White and Blue sweater from the Canadiens, obviously there will be butterflies.
"But we’ve got a four-point game with the Stars, a divisional team, and that really allows me to focus just on that right now and not think yet about the game Saturday. This is a big game for us in Dallas."
Come Saturday night in Denver, however, normal won’t be easy. There will always be a piece of Roy in Montreal, even with all that happened -- both good and bad -- during the first half of his playing career.
Perhaps more on his mind, though, is that he actually talked to Montreal about its coaching vacancy in the spring of 2012. Imagine how different things would be now if Roy was on the opposite bench Saturday night.
Roy, who wasn’t considered among the three front-runners for the Montreal job, was also quick to underline how well he thinks Habs GM Marc Bergevin handled the situation in 2012.
"I only have good things to say about the Canadiens organization," Roy said. "When I met with Marc Bergevin, I was happy just to be part of the process and was really impressed with the fashion in which Marc Bergevin works and how he handled things. I thought he was really respectful toward me. He phoned me the morning of the Michel Therrien [coaching] announcement and said: 'I wish you good luck; I know you’re a good coach. I know you’ll have a good career if you decide to go the NHL route one day.' I thought it was really sharp, really classy of him. I also understood why it might be tough for him to go with a rookie coach like me, given that he was also a rookie GM, and I respect that as well."
For Roy, just having the conversation with Bergevin was an education that he appreciated.
"I was just happy to be part of the process," he said. "I was always curious to see how it worked, how you have to sell yourself, explain your hockey philosophy, so I thought the whole thing was really interesting. It was a nice experience."
In the end, Roy was only going to leave his junior team in Quebec City if it meant a job with either of the two NHL teams he played for, and about a year later he got that chance with the Avalanche.
"Yes, they were the two NHL organizations I wanted to work with," Roy said.
The reality is that the fit in Denver makes more sense, especially as a rookie head coach. He doesn’t face the same pressure he would have in hockey-mad Montreal. Further, he has the power to make trades as vice president of hockey operations, along with the executive vice president of hockey operations, Joe Sakic, and he never would have had that authority as a rookie head coach in Montreal.
So in the end, all things worked out the way they probably should have, underlined by his sensational 10-1 start in Colorado.
Saturday’s game doesn’t carry as much Montreal baggage as it could have. In November 2008, the Canadiens decided to heal old wounds by retiring Roy's No. 33 in a pregame ceremony that won't soon be forgotten.
But Roy wouldn't say whether that night alone cleared the way for Saturday's matchup to be a more normal affair, without the questions about his famous exit in 1995.
"I don’t know, probably yes, but to what point, I can’t really say. After a while, we move on," Roy said. "I was happy with the Canadiens; I had 10 great years. You take 10 great years minus one night, overall those were extraordinary years. I think there comes a time, you move on. Besides, it’s a totally different regime now in Montreal. And I think it’s fun what’s happening in Montreal these days, the enthusiasm and the excitement in the market the last several years. It’s been fun to see."
Still, Roy versus the Habs? Yup, I’ll be watching.