NHL.com's weekly Q&A feature called "Five Questions With ..." runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
Though their coach was in the press conference room at Bell Centre answering questions from a familiar bilingual media for 30 minutes on Monday, the Colorado Avalanche players were free to venture out in one of North America's finest cities for an afternoon away from hockey, away from the rink. It was a quick, but well-earned respite.
Roy returns to Montreal as Avs coach
The Avalanche flew to Montreal after beating the Ottawa Senators 3-1 at Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday. The win was their third in the past four games and seventh in 10 since coming back from the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The two points they earned in Ottawa lifted Colorado back into second place in the Central Division, one point ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks.
It's amazing how quickly things have changed in Denver with Patrick Roy as coach.
A year ago on St. Patrick's Day, the Avalanche were last in the Western Conference and already thinking about where they'd select in the 2013 NHL Draft, and who they would take; now they're one point ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champions and fifth in the League-wide standings with 93 points and 41 regulation/overtime wins in 68 games.
Are they surprised in Denver?
"I don't think the word surprised is the right word to use," Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "Certainly we've come together and grown together and matured together as a group maybe faster than I would have thought or expected, but at the same time we all felt responsibility to play better and just to perform. It didn't matter what Patrick and [president of hockey operations] Joe [Sakic] and all these guys that came in said and did, ultimately it was up to us. It's clicked for us. Guys have stepped up and it's certainly paying off for us, but we've got a long ways to go."
Landeskog, though, knows as well as anyone that Roy's presence, accountability and coaching style are key reasons why it has clicked for the Avalanche this season after such a dreary 2012-13 season. He spoke about Roy's relationship with the Avalanche players and more in this week's Q&A.
Here are Five Questions with…Gabriel Landeskog:
What has Patrick Roy's biggest influence been on this team?
"I think it's hard to pinpoint one thing, but there are a few things that he's made so clear to all of us. He's in this together with us. It's a partnership. It's not coach vs. players. We're all in this together and he made that really clear from the beginning. I think other than that, he's a very good teacher and knows how to get messages through to his players and knows how to interact with his players. He's certainly earned the trust and respect that any coach needs for his players to work hard for him."
That's not the first time I've heard someone say he's in this with the players, that it's a partnership. Roy has said it himself numerous times. Can you add some color to that, give examples of some things that prove he's a part of it with you, that there is no separation?
"Usually players are used to coaches being a little distant and you almost have to tip-toe around them a little bit. With Patrick, it's the other way around. He comes in and hangs out in the players' lounge, chit-chats with us, shoots the [breeze], all that kind of stuff. That is something that makes us very comfortable and you earn that respect from the coach and you realize he's a regular guy despite all the Conn Smythes and the Cup rings and all of that. A lot of guys were intimidated at first. I mean, who wouldn't be when Patrick Roy is your coach? For him to come in and act like an equal with us, just come in and hang out with us, chit-chat with us, I think is something that has certainly brought us together as a team."
SOG: 181 | +/-: 19
"I think at some point it comes down to Patrick and his personality, his persona. I'm not saying any coach can walk into the players' lounge and try to hang out because, I'll be honest, sometimes it would be a little weird and a little awkward. He's made is feel very normal somehow. We're having fun with it and it's certainly working for us. It's a give and take relationship almost. I think he gets a lot out of it, coming in and talking to us, exchanging stories, and we do as well."
Have you noticed that the city is rallying around the Avs, likely for the first time since you've been in Denver?
"Yeah. Oh, absolutely. It's a big difference. You're noticing every day. Every game we win more and more people are recognizing you, and more and more people are coming up to you in a grocery store to congratulate you and wish you good luck in all of this. That's a lot of fun. It's a buzz that we want to keep going. It's a lot of fun to be a part of it. Certainly you notice what a sports city and what a hockey town Denver is and still could be. We're certainly enjoying it. I don't know if the [National Football League's] Broncos had a part in it, when their season ended maybe some of their fans had been missing hockey or needed some more Denver sports, and they came over to us. Either way I think certainly we're enjoying it and we want to keep the thing going.
"Our last game in Ottawa [Sunday night] was a great example of it. We're not used to going on the road and having hundreds of fans. We've seen a few, and don't get me wrong … we have great fan support on the road, but [Sunday] night in Ottawa was fantastic. It was fun for Avs fans. We loved seeing the jerseys and hearing the cheers when we scored."
OK, last one, and it's Olympic related. You were the youngest player on Sweden's roster and now have a silver medal, so finish this sentence: My Olympic experience taught me…
"That being in the room with all of those guys, being with [Niklas] Kronwall and [Daniel] Alfredsson and [Henrik] Zetterberg, [I learned] a great deal about being professional and about the way they prepare themselves with the demands and expectations they put on themselves every day. Those guys have been doing this for years and years, and they come to work the same way. Certainly that was a lot of fun, but there were a few things I learned from them that I would like to keep to myself as well."