By Mike Harrington
Hall of Fame goaltender and new Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy was in a great mood early this afternoon and why wouldn't he be? The Avs are one of the surprise stories of the league and hit town with a 6-1 record for tonight's game against the Sabres.
And while Roy said plenty about his team, what did I want to talk about? Mikhail Grigorenko. It was Roy who coached Grigorenko through junior hockey with the Quebec Ramparts, right through the end of last season after Girgorenko was shipped back from the Sabres. Grigorenko has one goal in 31 games over two seasons and no points in seven games this year. It was an understandably uncomfortable topic for Roy, since Grigorenko is no longer his player.
"I watched last year a few games because coaching in the junior I was hoping he was coming back," Roy said. "This year, quite frankly, it would be unfair by me to make any statement, for their coaching staff and for 'Grigo' as well."
Pressed further, however, Roy admitted he was surprised Grigorenko has struggled to produce here.
"The area that we were trying to work hard with Grigo was the compete level," Roy said. "In my opinion, he was losing too many battles. At times Grigo thought he was working hard but in watching the clips he was not. Obviously we were trying to break that down. That's all I can say."
Roy doesn't have that problem with No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, who is tied for the team scoring lead with seven points. Pretty interesting to contrast the above comment with what Roy said about MacKinnon.
"What I like about Nathan is that I'm not asking the question, 'Which guy is going to come tomorrow and play?' I know tonight he's going to play hard," Roy said. "He's not perfect. There's some details in his game that have to improve. But I know one thing: He's going to play hard here tonight and he's going to play with consistency."
The Avalanche blew away the franchise record by winning their first six games this season, and Roy tied former teammate Mario Tremblay's NHL record for consecutive wins to start by a new coach. They lost to Detroit, 4-2, on Thursday and hope to start a new streak tonight.
"They've been extremely receptive to the teaching we've done so far. I love the intensity and energy that we have on the ice," Roy said. "I love how we play on our tracking, our backchecking. Everybody is committed to it. I love the commitment of our players since the first day of training camp. I could draw a list of things I love about my team right now. It's fun to see how committed we are."
Click below to hear Roy's entire session with reporters, capped by his thoughts on his trip to Rochester last night to see his son, Freddy, play with the Amerks.