- By misreading Patrick Roy's discontent, Avalanche GM Joe Sakic now has to find a solid replacement head coach in a thin and mostly unproven talent pool.
Maybe Joe Sakic was playing dumb.
Or maybe the general manager of the Colorado Avalanche was genuinely was caught off guard by the resignation on Thursday of head coach and hockey ops VP Patrick Roy.
"I know we were on the same page," Sakic said in his conference call. “Patrick was consulted on everything. As I was getting comfortable in my role, I relied on him more and now as we built up our staff, with a staff we all really trust, especially in season. It allowed Patrick to keep his focus more on coaching.
"We've never had an issue with not getting along. He was consulted on everything. We were friends then, and we're friends now."
Maybe that's all true. But it's awfully hard to reconcile Sakic's version with Roy's decision to announce his resignation via a Quebec-based PR firm rather than through the team. Or with the conspicuous absence of Sakic's name from the list of those Roy thanked in his statement.
It's hardly a surprise that there was some kind of power struggle, or that Sakic ultimately came out on top. But to have this situation come to a head the way it did, and in the middle of August? It's not a good look for the franchise or for Sakic, who now faces the challenge of hiring Roy's replacement from a very shallow pool of talent.
“Myself and my staff are going to get together [Saturday] and look at candidates, and go ahead and look for the right guy to take us to the next level,” he said. “We’re going to put a group of candidates together and then start the interview process. There’s no timetable. Obviously, we’d like to have it done before training camp. But we want to interview quite a few people and see who we all feel is the best fit.”
Sakic indicated that he'd be looking outside the organization for a replacement, which isn't great news for current assistants Dave Farrish, Tim Army and Nolan Pratt. Given that the new man is likely to want his own people around him, they could be out of work soon, too. That would be an especially tough break for Pratt, who was hired just last month to improve Colorado's sluggish defensive game.
The name that's getting the most traction is already familiar to Avs fans. Bob Hartley, who led Colorado to a Stanley Cup in 2001, is the most experienced coach on the market. He was fired after last season by the Calgary Flames, just one year after winning the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach.
Would the Avs bring him back though? Based on rumblings around the league, that seems unlikely. Instead, they could focus on current assistants who might have out-clauses for a head coaching gig.
Kevin Dineen, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant to Joel Quenneville in Chicago, might be the best option. The 52-year-old led the Panthers to a division title in his first go-round as a head coach in 2011-12 and later worked a minor miracle as a last-minute replacement coach for Canada's gold medal-winning women's team at the 2014 Olympics. He also won the Cup with the Blackhawks in 2015, a nice capper on an already impressive résumé.
Bob Boughner is another name that's being whispered. An assistant last season in San Jose, he played a big role in the Sharks' first-ever run to the Stanley Cup Final. And while his experience behind an NHL bench is limited, he's a proven developer of young talent, having guided the Windsor Spitfires to back-to-back Memorial Cup titles in 2009 and 2010. Among the kids he nurtured: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Ryan Ellis, Cam Fowler and Phillip Grubauer. He's also a former Av, something that may endear him to Sakic...or not.
A couple of other names are likely in the mix: former Senators head coach/current Ducks assistant Paul MacLean and former Blue Jackets head coach/current Lightning assistant Todd Richards.
Sakic could also look to go young with someone like Sheldon Keefe or Travis Green, although that seems less likely given how little time they'd have to prepare for the season and how that would hamper their chances at success.
This is a pivotal moment for the franchise. Sakic clearly misread the Roy situation and that put this team in a tough spot. He needs a win with this hire.