Listening to media coverage of the Colorado Avalanche the past three seasons, you’d never guess the team was rife with young, marketable stars — well-spoken, engaging young men that should be notable for reasons other than being the perpetual targets of trade speculation. No matter how good players like Tyson Barrie, Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon were, the Hall of Fame goalie on the bench, four-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Roy, was always going to outshine them.
You could see it in the camera interviews, read it in the coverage — for three years we we all stood in awe of one of the biggest personalities to ever play the game. Is it possible players felt increasingly diminished over his tenure? Hell, I know I certainly would if the greatest goaltender of all time walked through the door and put his balls on the table every time he entered the room.
Can a group of young players in that environment, however talented, possibly reach their potential living the the shadow of such a gargantuan personality?
It’s the same argument that’s been made for years about fourth-liners wearing captain’s letters. How are the Avalanche’s best skaters supposed to take ownership on a team when the assistant captains are part-time power play specialists and enforcers playing eight minutes a night? It’s equally frustrating when the coach receives every last ounce of local and national media attention. “Oh, Barrie put up three points, including a game-winning goal, in tonight’s victory? Well, uh, we’ll be over here fawning over his coach for twenty minutes in the press room. Good game, though!”
That’s not going to be the case anymore.
Whatever results we see from Jared Bednar’s coaching tenure, the focus will now be on the players. He could lead the Avalanche to the playoffs next year and put a Jack Adams trophy on his shelf and the biggest stars will still be the guys on the ice. This isn’t a slight to Bednar, or a commentary on all the Avalanche fans screaming right now about the team not hiring a “big name” they already knew. It’s just that he’s not Patrick freaking Roy — no one is.
So, not only is Colorado bringing in a coach who is as savvy with spreadsheets as he is with the wipe-off board, but he’s going to allow the players to crawl out from under Roy and finally earn their own accomplishments. This is every bit as important as fixing the breakout play or eliminating the Collapse-O-Rama™ defensive system.
Avalanche fans certainly wish Patrick Roy nothing but the very best. He was a great ambassador for the organization and put forth nothing short of his best effort, but the only way these players are going to turn into the stars we want them to be is if the galaxy’s largest supernova is no longer part of the equation.