Before the start of the final series, I told you that my heart was with the Avalanche and I am happy for their league because it is my old team, but also for their general manager, Joe Sakic, a man to whom he must be given much credit.
I played a little over two seasons with Sakic and I knew immediately he was a great captain and now we can consecrate him as one of the best general managers in the NHL. His team is in the image of him. His players were on a mission and ultimately wanted the Stanley Cup more than the Lightning.
These are two big organizations and if you allow, it is also a bit daunting for Canadiens fans who have not won the Stanley Cup since 1993. Avalanche won it in 1996, 2001 and 2022; the Lightning, in 2004, 2020 and 2021. These organizations have been able to rebuild at least twice and will still be dangerous in the coming seasons.
For more than 25 years, the Canadian has been walking on water and if he’s starting to be encouraging, the Habs have not yet reached the level of a serious contender for the cup.
Colorado goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper was under a lot of pressure against the best of his profession, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and although he conceded bad goals here and there, he never fell apart and his manager Jared Bednar trusted him.
Plus, they all supported each other at the Avalanche. We haven’t heard anything negative, and it’s like Sakic. As captain, he made sure everyone felt part of the team. In my career I have often seen veterans barely speak to rookies, but Sakic took care of everyone.
He has been very nice, not only to all the players but also to the equipment workers and all the employees he has worked with.
The same person
When I played golf with him two years ago, I found the same man. He showed me to be very lucid in evaluating Avalanche and as a good chess player he saw several moves in advance. I was struck by how well he knew his players on a human level.
They say leadership starts at the top of the pyramid and Sakic is the perfect example of that. His best players are also leaders if we think of Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, in particular.
Patience is a great virtue. Bednar said he expected to be fired after his first season in 2016-17, but Sakic never panicked. He put him to work because he believed in his qualities as a coach and leader and he didn’t betray him.
In fact, Bednar was as good as the famous Jon Cooper in this ending and I think the two men are very similar.
An excellent calculator, Sakic refused to overpay his former goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer and turned to Kuemper. He negotiated the hard way with Kent Hughes to get Artturi Lehkonen from the Canadiens in exchange for Justin Barron, but ultimately the GM also gave up on a second round pick in 2024. Sakic understood what Lehkonen would bring him.
Sakic is also a righteous man. In Makar’s case, he gave him the jackpot on his second contract, knowing full well what kind of player and person he was.
He will have several contracts to negotiate this summer, but I am convinced he will find solutions to keep Avalanche at the top. Of course, it deserves all our congratulations.
– Interview by Gilles Moffet
Paul Maurice in Florida
Archive photo, Martin Chevalier
When it comes to patience, the Florida Panthers look nothing like the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s still surprising that they didn’t keep Andrew Brunette’s serves behind the bench. After all, he was a finalist for the Jack-Adams Trophy as best coach. Paolo Maurizio he’s a man of experience, but I would still have given Brunette a chance to start next season.
Luke Richardson in Chicago
Photographic archive, Pierre-Paul Poulin
The Canadian has lost an excellent assistant Luke Richardson. Can’t wait to see who happens to him. It will probably be someone close to Martin St-Louis. Richardson is a good man, but he will be hard at work in Chicago.
Austin Matthews party
Austin Matthews he was the king of trophy night lifting the Hart and the Ted-Lindsay. He had already won the Maurice-Richard trophy as top scorer with 60 goals and this shows how exceptional this feat is. Impressive defender Avalanche Cale Makkar won the Norris Trophy, then the Stanley Cup and Conn-Smythe. He’ll probably add the Hart Trophy to his collection someday.
Congratulations to Luongo!
Roberto Luongo he amply deserves his nomination to the Hall of Fame. He worked wonders on his Florida Panthers debut, but the team fell short. It was in Vancouver that he distinguished himself and came to one game since winning the Stanley Cup. What I remember about him is his consistency. He has excelled season after season and played more than 70 games for four seasons in a row. Having joined him at the 2004 World Cup, I can tell you that he is one of the hardest workers he has ever known. He was also a great teammate and will remember that he had agreed to be relegated to the role of number two with the Canucks behind the young Cory Schneider and had even supported him.