Published: October 4, 2013
DENVER - Patrick Roy's still got it.
He's still got a gambler's obsession with winning, still turns a news conference into must-see TV, still has the glare of a boxer at a weigh-in.
He still has a goalie's mentality, too.
"You don't have to play well every night to win games," Roy said.
As Roy enters his first game as the Avalanche coach, against Nashville on Wednesday, he's trying to do something only someone with his hockey credentials should attempt to do.
Don't try this at home: Roy is trying to lift a losing franchise and carry it on his own shoulders. Look closely, and his first step was to take the pressure off his players and put it squarely on himself.
We've seen this act before. Believe it or not, there were hockey nights in America when Super Joe wasn't super and Peter the Great wasn't great. Roy was there to carry a team to victory even as his teammates struggled through a rare off-night.
Great goalies can do that. Great coaches can, too.
The Avs last season had enough off-nights to bury them at rock bottom of the Western Conference. As the losses mounted, the pressure inside the Avs locker room mounted intensely enough to shape a diamond.
With carefully chosen words during his first offseason as the Avs coach, Roy delivered a message as clear as the diamonds on his four Stanley Cup rings:
Don't worry, fellas. The pressure's on me. Not you.
"I will accept their mistakes," he said.
Will Roy be a great coach in the NHL? It's way too early for that kind of talk.
What he has is great insight into the psyche of a player. At the end of last season, the Avs' psyche was shaved ice.
To fix their game, Roy must fix their brain.
"We've learned how to lose," forward Matt Duchene said. "Now we have to learn how to win."
Roy is attempting to take the pressure off Gabe Landeskog. As a 19-year-old rookie, Landy was named the youngest team captain in NHL history. So far it has proved to be too much, too soon.
"Last year was a little bit weird, to say the least, coming in after a lockout with a 'C' on my chest," Landeskog said.
Roy confirmed Landy, who still must be in Canada to kick back a cold one, will return for his second season with a 'C' on his chest.
"Yes, he is a captain," Roy said.
Notice how Roy refrained from saying "the" captain? This was another subtle example of taking the pressure off a player and explaining that leadership should be a team effort.
"I never had a 'C' on my jersey," Roy said. "That doesn't mean I couldn't be a leader."
Roy is taking the pressure off Erik Johnson. When a player is drafted No.?1 overall, pressure is part of the deal. When he's traded before his 23rd birthday, it doubles.
"Don't live in the past," Roy said of his message to Johnson. "It's about now."
Look, these guys lace up a pair of ice skates and play a fast, fun game to earn millions of dollars. Pressure is relative.
But when the Avs missed the playoffs for a third straight season, their locker room was relatively grim.
"We're tired of losing," Landy said.
As a goalie, Roy played 17 seasons in a full NHL schedule. His teams made the playoffs 17 times. His experience is that postseasons are a given, not a goal.
But when Roy was asked if these Avs are a playoff team, he stopped short of setting an expectation that would place added pressure on his players.
"Not too many experts put us in the playoffs," Roy said. "I would love to surprise them."
The surprise of this offseason: the Avs became relevant again. They did it by forming a front-office line with Roy as the coach and Joe Sakic as the executive.
Can St. Patrick return the Avs to their glory years?