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Nothing but questions after Patrick Roy resigns

Avalanche caught 'off guard' by coach's decision to quit

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @Cotsonika / Columnist

Joe Sakic did his best to play down any differences with Patrick Roy on Thursday after Roy's sudden, shocking resignation as coach and vice president of hockey operations of the Colorado Avalanche.

Sakic, the executive vice president and general manager of the Avalanche, said he and Roy were always on the same page and would always be friends. He said that he was happy for Roy because Roy wouldn't have to feel the stress anymore, that he respected and supported Roy for doing what was best for him, and that they had talked about playing golf the next time they got together.

"It's not a blowup," Sakic said. "I respect him. He didn't have a lot of fun last year, and the last month or so, he came to this decision on his own. There's nothing but the utmost respect for somebody who comes to that decision and tells you before you get going for the season. We're all good."

But if it wasn't a blowup, what was it?

And why isn't it a blowup now? How can they be all good after this?

Sakic said he was "very surprised" and everyone with the Avalanche was caught "off guard" when Roy called to inform him Thursday.

"I told him, 'Are you sure you don't want to wait a day or a weekend to think about it some more?'" Sakic said. "And he said he was very comfortable with this decision. He's thought about it for three or four weeks. He came to this conclusion, and he was ready for it."

Yes, as Sakic said: "It would be a lot harder if he came to training camp with a mindset that wasn't fresh and ready to go."

But Roy had been thinking about this for weeks, and he told Sakic now, a little more than a month before training camp?

Sakic said he and his staff would start compiling a list of candidates Friday, and then start the interview process, but the most attractive candidates who became available this offseason already have landed jobs.

Video: E.J. Hradek looks at Patrick Roy's decision to resign

Roy put the Avalanche in a bad position, and it is still unclear exactly why. He released his own statement, which insinuated dysfunction within the organization.

"I have thought long and hard over the course of the summer about how I might improve this team to give it the depth it needs and bring it to a higher level," Roy said in his statement. "To achieve this, the vision of the coach and VP-Hockey Operations needs to be perfectly aligned with that of the organization. He must also have a say in the decisions that impact the team's performance. These conditions are not currently met."

That sure sounds like Roy disagreed with Sakic on some things. The Avalanche did not make major moves this offseason, largely because they re-signed forward Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Tyson Barrie, who each was a restricted free agent, and had salary-cap constrictions. Did Roy want to be more aggressive? Did he feel left out of the process?

Sakic said no. He said Roy was consulted on everything. During the season, he focused on coaching, but in the offseason, they worked on personnel together. He said Roy was fine with their plan.

"We were always on that same page," Sakic said. "Moving forward, we're still on that same page."

So why weren't they on the same page about whether Roy would be back this season?

Depending on how they handle this, the Avalanche might be better off. Roy was a great goaltender, one of the greatest of all time, maybe the greatest of all time. He was a great coach for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League too. But he wasn't a great coach in the NHL.

Roy won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 2013-14, his first season, when the Avalanche went 52-22-8 for 112 points and took the Minnesota Wild to seven games in the Western Conference First Round.

At the time, analysts warned that his record was deceiving because the Avalanche had poor possession numbers and elevated shooting and save percentages. They defied the odds because goaltender Semyon Varlamov was so good that he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Roy -- and Sakic -- rejected criticism of the Avalanche's style of play. Well, they went 39-31-12 for 90 points and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2014-15. They went 39-39-4 for 82 points and missed the playoffs last season.

Video: Patrick Roy resigns in Colorado

Look at those trends again:

Wins: 52, 39, 39.

Losses in regulation: 22, 31, 39.

Points: 112, 90, 82.

In light of that, something had to change. They need an upgrade on defense and a new approach. They must get the puck out of their end and to their forwards with speed, cut down on turnovers, and sustain possession more in the offensive end. With forwards like MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, that needs to be their strength.

"We believe in our core," Sakic said. "We know they've got to take another step, and we believe they will. We think we're heading in the right direction."

We'll see. A lot depends on who's pointing the way.

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