Before the start of the final series, I told you that my heart was with the Avalanche and I am happy for their championship because it is my old team, but also for their general manager, Joe Sakic, a man to whom he must be given a lot of credit.
I played a little over two seasons with Sakic and I quickly realized that 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 his image. His players were on a mission and ultimately they wanted the Stanley Cup more than the Lightning.
These are two great organizations and if you allow it, it’s even a little discouraging for the supporters of the Canadiens who have not won the Stanley Cup since 1993. The Avalanche won it in 1996, 2001 and 2022 ; the Lightning, in 2004, 2020 and 2021. These organizations have been able to rebuild themselves at least twice and they will still be dangerous in the coming seasons.
For more than 25 years, the Canadian has been treading water and if it’s starting to be encouraging, the Habs have not yet reached the level of a serious contender for the cup.
Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper was under a lot of pressure against the best of his profession, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and although he allowed bad goals here and there, he never fell apart and his coach Jared Bednar trusted him .
Besides, everyone supported each other at the Avalanche. We haven’t heard anything negative, and that’s like Sakic. As captain, he made sure everyone felt part of the team. In my career, I’ve often seen veterans barely speak to rookies, but Sakic took care of everyone.
He was very kind, not only with all the players but also with the equipment attendants and all the employees he worked with.
The same person
When I played golf with him two years ago, I found the same man. He showed me that he was very lucid in his evaluation of the Avalanche and like a good chess player, he saw several moves in advance. I was impressed how well he knew his players on a human level.
They say that leadership starts at the top of the pyramid and Sakic is the perfect example. Its best players are also leaders if we think of captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, in particular.
Do not panic
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 in the job because he believed in his qualities as a coach and a leader and he did not betray him.
In fact, Bednar was as good as the renowned Jon Cooper in this finale and I think the two men are a lot alike.
Fine calculator, Sakic did not want to overpay his former goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer and he turned to Kuemper. He negotiated the hard way with Kent Hughes to get Artturi Lehkonen from the Canadiens in return for Justin Barron, but in the end the GM also gave up a second-round pick in 2024. Sakic understood what Lehkonen would bring him.
Sakic is also a fair 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 that he will find the solutions to keep the Avalanche at the top. Certainly, he deserves all our congratulations.
– Interview by Gilles Moffet
Paul Maurice in Florida
Archive photo, Martin Chevalier
When it comes to patience, the Florida Panthers are nothing like the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s still surprising that they did not retain the services of Andrew Brunette behind the bench. After all, he was a finalist for the Jack-Adams Trophy as best coach. Paul Maurice is a man of experience, but I would still have given Brunette a chance to start the next season.
Luke Richardson in Chicago
Photo archives, Pierre-Paul Poulin
The Canadian lost an excellent assistant in Luke Richardson. I can’t wait to see who will succeed him. It will probably be someone close to Martin St-Louis. Richardson is a good man, but it’s going to be a tough job in Chicago.
The Auston Matthews Party
Auston Matthews 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 that shows how exceptional this feat is. Impressive Avalanche defenseman Cale Makkar won the Norris Trophy, then the Stanley Cup and the Conn-Smythe. He’ll probably add the Hart Trophy to his collection someday.
Congratulations to Luongo!
Roberto Luongo amply deserves his nomination to the Hall of Fame. He worked miracles in his debut with the Florida Panthers, but the team was no match for it. It was in Vancouver that he stood out and came one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. What I remember from him is his consistency. He excelled season after season and he played more than 70 games four campaigns in a row. Having rubbed shoulders with him at the World Cup in 2004, I can tell you that he is one of the hardest workers I have known. He was also an excellent teammate and it will be remembered that he had agreed to be relegated to the role of number two with the Canucks behind the young Cory Schneider and he had even supported him.