After missing the postseason party for the second consecutive year in 2015-16, it was expected in some circles that the Avalanche would be active this offseason in attempting to upgrade their roster. Instead, aside from a couple of minor free agent signings, all was relatively quiet in Colorado this summer until the abrupt resignation of VP of Hockey Operations/Head Coach Patrick Roy. The Avalanche would eventually settle on young, up-and-coming head coaching candidate Jared Bednar to replace Roy behind the bench.
Mike Chambers of The Denver Post was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule and answer some questions for Pro Hockey Rumors about the Avalanche’s offseason and their chances to compete for a playoff spot in 2016-17.
PHR: With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps it’s fair to wonder about discord existing in the Avalanche front office entering the summer. As someone who has covered the team on a daily basis, were you surprised by Patrick Roy’s resignation or did you have a sense that there may have been some issues behind the scenes which could lead to a change of this nature?
MC: The timing of Roy’s resignation put the organization in a bind. I don’t believe that was Roy’s intention but it’s obvious he was unhappy about his diminished role in player personnel. He made that clear in his news release and you could see he didn’t have a major voice at the draft in June, and the Avs didn’t make the splash Roy wanted in free agency. To answer your question, I was surprised at the timing of Roy’s resignation but, knowing his personality, he wasn’t going to continue if he didn’t steer the ship. He wanted more and Joe Sakic obviously grew into his GM role by leaning more on his assistant GMs Craig Billington and Chris MacFarland.
PHR: After leading Lake Erie to a Calder Cup championship, Jared Bednar was widely considered one of the top, up-and-coming head coaching prospects in the game. That being said, the timing of his hire probably doesn’t do him any favors; particularly as it pertains to his assistant coaching staff. What direction do you think he goes; does he retain Roy’s assistants in full or will he make some changes?
(Note: The questions were submitted prior to Bednar officially confirming he was retaining all of the team’s assistant coaches.)
MC: Bednar will retain Tim Army (power play), Dave Farrish (penalty kill) and Francois Allaire (goalies) — plus defensive specialist Nolan Pratt, whom the Avs hired from Bednar’s staff in July. Army and Farrish might have different roles and we certainly believe Bednar and Pratt will spearhead the new systems. It’s not a complete new staff but close, and that’s perhaps what this team needed.
PHR: Trade rumors involving some of the team’s core young players have persisted since early in the 2015-16 season. How close did the Avalanche actually get to making a blockbuster type of deal at any point?
MC: I believe that was a big part of the Sakic-Roy split. Roy told us he wanted to sign a marquee free-agent defensemen in July and I believe he was the executive wanting to move major parts such as Matt Duchene, Tyson Barrie and Gabe Landeskog. In the end, I believe Sakic and his other support staff chose to stick with the core. Not pulling the trigger on a blockbuster deal was probably not what Roy wanted.
PHR: Does the new coach and presumably a fresh approach on the ice mean management is content with the core and willing to ride out the season with that group intact or do you think a poor start could lead to drastic changes in player personnel prior to the 2017 trade deadline?
MC: Drastic changes. If this team doesn’t improve with a new bench boss I think Sakic makes major roster changes. Nobody is expecting a huge improvement on the blue line but if this team evens out its shots for/against the forward core has the ability to score in bunches.
PHR: The Central may well be the toughest division in the NHL. How would you handicap Colorado’s chances to qualify for a postseason berth and if they do get in, are they capable as currently constructed of making a long run?
MC: The Avs have made the playoffs just three times in the last 10 years, but twice a rookie coach has led them to the postseason: Joe Sacco in 2009-2010 and Roy in 2013-14. Bednar’s arrival gives this team a fresh start, but Colorado will be hard-pressed to keep up with Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago. Anything can happen in the playoffs and I do believe this roster is capable of getting there.
Mike Chambers has been a writer for The Denver Post since 1994 and has covered both the NCAA’s Denver University Pioneers and the Colorado Avalanche for much of that time. For a full bio, click here. To stay up-to-date on all things Avalanche, follow Mike on Twitter by clicking here. Pro Hockey Rumors would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Mike for taking the time to answer our questions.