Patrick Roy’s fiery personality already is rubbing off on the Colorado Avalanche.
Just the other day in a scrimmage, captain Gabriel Landeskog mixed it up along the boards with Steve Downie. That feistiness precisely is what the new coach wants to see from a team that’s missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons.
“You need to come with a different attitude,” said Roy, the Hall of Fame goaltender who captured two Stanley Cup titles with the Avalanche. “Sometimes with new vision, you just have to give it a try; they’ve been giving it that try.”
These days, Roy is preaching a simple message: Take care of the little things on the ice, such as clearing loose pucks in front of the net.
“You can’t emphasis details too much,” Landeskog said. “He’s seen all the details. He’s a good one to teach you.”
Roy has some help, too, with former teammate Joe Sakic stepping into a broader role in the front office this season and handling the day-to-day hockey operations. Roy and Sakic are hoping their reunion can restore some luster to this downtrodden franchise.
“Those guys that were stars are now dedicating themselves to getting the team back to where it was when they were playing,” said forward Alex Tanguay, who played alongside Roy and Sakic when Colorado won the Cup in 2001. “You look at their résumés, when they’re going to tell you something, we know that they’ve been around. The message is going to be something that they lived.
“This is a new beginning for this team.”
Matt Duchene couldn’t agree more, saying this season already has a “way different feel.”
“Roy’s passion and knowledge of the game is so great,” Duchene said. “It’s going to be really exciting to work with a guy like that.”
Here are five things to know as the Avalanche head into the season:
There’s a clear reason the Avs selected Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 pick: He can make things happen on the ice. The 18-year-old had 32 goals and 43 assists in 44 games for the Halifax Mooseheads last season.
“He’s the real deal,” Ryan O’Reilly said.
Roy wants MacKinnon just to play his game and not feel like he has to do everything by himself.
“We don’t want Nathan to come here to be our savior,” Roy said. “We want Nathan to be the (best) player he can be.”
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Landeskog was named the youngest captain in league history last season, an honor that came with plenty of pressure.
Being so young, Landeskog had to learn how to be a leader as he went along. There were no textbooks to follow.
And when things reached a boiling point late last season, it was veteran goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere who stepped in, calling out some of his teammates for focusing on postseason vacation plans in Las Vegas and not their performance on the ice.
Landeskog appreciated the assist.
“There are a lot of great guys around here who are going to help me,” said Landeskog, who will turn 21 in November.
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The Avalanche received very little scoring from their defensemen in the lockout-abbreviated season, something Roy urgently wants to remedy. It all starts with Erik Johnson, the former No. 1 overall pick by the St. Louis Blues who’s had seven goals – none last season – since being acquired by the Avalanche on Feb. 18, 2011.
“I’m confident he’s going to have a very good year,” Roy said. “We’re going to work hard with him to not live in the past.”
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Walking into the dressing room, Tanguay spotted a picture of former Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque skating around with the trophy from ’01.
A member of that team, the 33-year-old Tanguay returns to Denver this season after being acquired in a trade with Calgary.
“This is a new year, and I understand how hard you have to work to be successful in this league,” Tanguay said.
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Goaltender Semyon Varlamov not only has Roy to rely on but also the person who mentored Roy in coach Francois Allaire.
During the offseason, Varlamov and Allaire worked on changing the young goaltender’s style.
“I won’t tell you how I’m going to play this year,” Varlamov said with a smile. “But I think it’s going to help me in the future.”