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The Globe and Mail

Mirtle: Roy has tall task in fixing what ails the Avs

Quebec Remparts coach Patrick Roy talks to media Monday, January 18, 2010 at the Quebec Colisee in Quebec City.


Pretty much ever since Patrick Roy left, things haven't been quite right with the Colorado Avalanche.

They haven't made it beyond the second round, have missed the playoffs five of nine seasons (including five of the last seven) and have had a series of different faces behind the bench.

Roy, revealed as the team's new head coach and VP of hockey operations on Thursday, will be the fifth change there in the last 10 years.

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The bigger problem, however, has become the perception of the franchise.

It is, in short, not very good, from GM Greg Sherman being seen as merely a figurehead executive after being promoted from the team store into the top hockey job, to the notion that former GM Pierre Lacroix has continued to be overly involved in hockey operations.

Add in what many fans have called an uncaring owner and the fact players who have left the organization in recent years seeming only too happy to get out of there and there's a bit of a toxic stew around what was once a powerhouse organization.

This is a long way from where the Avs were with Roy in goal, when they won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001 and were generally competitive right up until he left almost exactly a decade ago today.

This is a team that finished with 95 points or more 12 straight seasons after arriving from Quebec City and enjoyed a charmed beginning, with a full building and engaged fan base right from the start.

A lot of that is gone now.

They have only hit that 95-point mark once in the last five years, and selling tickets in Denver has become a big problem along with that, as they've consistently been in the bottom seven or eight in league attendance after a 487-game sellout streak ended in 2006.

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The Avs payroll has also been fairly low after years of being one of the league's top spenders.

The good news is the organization has some very good young pieces, from Gabriel Landeskog to Ryan O'Reilly, Tyson Barrie and Matt Duchene, and also have the first overall pick in the draft next month.

That's enough to turn things around, if some of the right decisions are made.

So far the Avs have taken, a shall we say, unique route in rebuilding their front office. Two former stars in Joe Sakic and Roy are now in charge of hockey operations, becoming the face of the rebuild while Sherman lends a hand, and they will have to learn-on-the-fly how to operate.

Roy has certainly had a lot of success coaching and running the Quebec Remparts the last eight seasons but that junior-to-NHL jump is a difficult one for the majority who make it. His oversized personality, meanwhile, will immediately become a focal point for a franchise that has too often lacked that kind of spark of late, but whether it'll be a positive or a negative is impossible to know.

So it's a gamble that those elements will pay off with more wins. And other teams that have elevated players quickly into the GM role (Joe Nieuwendyk, Steve Yzerman, Garth Snow) have had pretty mixed results in recent years.

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Life in the Western Conference doesn't appear to be getting any easier, either, and it's likely going to take some time for the Avs to begin any progression up the standings regardless of who's in charge.

What these moves should definitely do is reinvigorate the fan base, at least temporarily. After that, it'll be up to Sakic and Roy to deliver a more competitive team on the ice to finally turn things around.

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