Some of the greatest athletes of all time have failed as coaches because they couldn’t handle the fact that their players couldn’t perform like they did.
First-year Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, a Hockey Hall of Famer considered by many to be the best goalie ever, said that won’t be the case with him.
“No. What I did is part of the past. Now the place is for them and how I can help them get to the next level,” Roy said before Colorado’s 3-2 exhibition win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night in Frozen Fury XV before a crowd of 11,722 at the MGM Grand Garden.
“My philosophy is I’m not coming in here as a coach. I’m coming in here as a partner to them,” added Roy, 47. “It’s their team, and their leadership should come from the inside.
“You can’t be a cop forever in the NHL. Eventually it’s up to the players to decide where they want to go and what kind of commitment they’re willing to make.”
Roy, a three-time Vezina Trophy winner who won two of his four Stanley Cup titles with Colorado (1996, 2001), might not expect the same level of excellence from his players but he expects the same work ethic from the Avalanche — which, at 16-25-7 (39 points), finished last season with the worst record in the Western Conference.
“In practice, he works as hard as we do, just yelling at the guys and finding out where he wants us to be and how he wants us to work,” forward Alex Tanguay said.
The 33-year-old Tanguay, acquired from the Calgary Flames, is one of several members of Colorado’s 2001 Stanley Cup title team who has rejoined the franchise this season. The others are Roy, also the team’s vice president of player operations, and Adam Foote, an assistant coach. Joe Sakic has taken on an expanded role this season as the club’s executive VP of player operations.
“Having the chance to come back to the organization I kind of grew up with and with some of the guys I played with, it’s exciting,” said Tanguay, who lived in Roy’s basement his rookie year. “I’m very familiar with Patrick and what he’s like. It’s going to be fun. He’s very intense, very driven. He wants to win on a nightly basis, and his enthusiasm carries throughout our team.
“His passion and enthusiasm for the game are what sets him apart, so far, from other coaches.”
Roy, who retired in 2003 after an 18-year NHL career, spent the past 10 seasons as coach, general manager and co-owner of the Quebec Ramparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
He guided his native Quebec to the 2006 Memorial Cup and declined an offer to become Colorado’s coach in 2009 to stay near his family.
“I had three children living with me in Quebec, and I thought it was time to give back to them,” he said. “This time around is totally different. No one’s at home, so I thought it would be a good situation to give it a shot.
“Coming back to Denver is something, quite frankly, I’m very happy about.”
Considering the Avalanche have missed the playoffs the past three seasons, Roy faces a huge challenge in turning around Colorado. But there’s reason for optimism.
The Avalanche possess some young talent in forwards Nathan MacKinnon — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft — team captain Gabriel Landeskog (No. 2 overall pick in 2011) and Matt Duchene (No. 3 overall pick in 2009).
Roy also is expecting big things from his 25-year-old Russian goalie, Semyon Varlamov, who worked in the offseason with acclaimed goalie coach Francois Allaire, Roy’s former mentor, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere — Colorado’s backup goalie who helped backstop the Anaheim Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup title.
The Avalanche feature another former No. 1 overall pick in defenseman Erik Johnson, who needs to step up to improve what was a porous defense last season.
Naysayers will argue that Roy won’t be able to bring the glory days back to Colorado, but he might not hear them. After all, this is the man who famously responded to a dig by former NHL standout center Jeremy Roenick by saying, “I can’t really hear what Jeremy says because I’ve got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears.” (Roenick never won an NHL title.)
Said Roy of his squad’s playoff chances: “Nobody’s going to put us in the playoffs, but we have the right to try to surprise the world of hockey, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
“I’ve been on teams that are not necessarily the best team and won the Stanley Cup. I’m not talking about winning the Stanley Cup, but if we play together we can accomplish great things.”
■ NOTES — Colorado (3-3-0) scored three consecutive goals in the second period to take a 3-2 lead in both teams’ preseason finale. Landeskog scored the final two goals, beating Mathieu Garon at 12:58 before getting the tiebreaker on a power play at 16:06 without his helmet. Ryan O’Reilly had Colorado’s first goal. ... Mike Richards put the Kings (3-3-1) ahead with two power-play goals, beating Giguere (23 saves) at 16:38 of the first period and at 14 seconds of the second.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter:@tdewey33.