Patrick Roy quit the Colorado Avalanche due to “philosophical differences” with GM Joe Sakic. That much we know for sure.
And while those differences were never explained in full detail, it sure sounds like one of them — and let’s face it, there were probably a bunch of them — was the assessment of defenseman Nick Holden.
To refresh your memory, Sakic traded Holden to the Rangers in June, and all the Avs got in return was a fourth-round draft pick in 2017.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault remembers the trade well.
“It was funny, we were coming back from (the draft in) Buffalo, I got a call as I got off the plane in Ottawa from Patrick Roy saying to me, ‘You just got one of my better defensemen,'” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.
“And I don’t know why Pat called me out of the blue.”
For the record, we’re not suggesting that the Holden trade tore the Colorado Avalanche apart. At the end of the day, it was a minor trade. But it may have been illustrative of the philosophical differences between Roy and Sakic. The former was clearly a Holden fan. The latter thought he was worth a fourth-round pick.
According to Vigneault, Holden has been a good early fit with the Rangers (4-2-0). The 29-year-old, whose cap hit is just $1.65 million, has logged over 20 minutes a game while skating mostly on the top pairing with Ryan McDonagh, who’s been excellent to start the season.
It remains to be seen if Holden and McDonagh, both left shots, will remain together all year. McDonagh spent most of last year with right-shooting Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein, but those two are currently paired with Brady Skjei and Marc Staal, respectively. The healthy scratches last game were both rights shots, Adam Clendening and Dylan McIlrath, the latter of whom is reportedly on the trading block.
So a lot could still change with this Rangers defense, which came into the season under a powerful microscope. The early returns have been encouraging, though. (Or, at the very least, not as poor as many had expected.)
Meanwhile, the Avs’ back end remains a work in progress. Sakic said the Holden trade would open up opportunities for youngsters Nikita Zadorov, Chris Bigras, and Duncan Siemens; however, the latter two didn’t make the team out of camp and Zadorov has averaged just 16:25 of ice time so far.
In Colorado’s first five games, new coach Jared Bednar has leaned heavily on Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Francois Beauchemin, with support from Zadorov, Eric Gelinas and free-agent additions Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch.