They Won as N.H.L. Players. They’re Winning in Their Second Acts, Too.

Sometimes a staff’s high performer stays the fulcrum of the franchise even after retirement.

Such is the case for 2 males who received championships as gamers and right this moment discover themselves vying for the Stanley Cup with the identical organizations in off-ice roles.

For Colorado, which opened each the common season and the postseason as title favorites, that pillar is General Manager Joe Sakic. In his Hall of Fame profession, all with the Avalanche and Quebec Nordiques franchise, he led Colorado to Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, when he was additionally the common season Most worthy participant. He’s the profession chief for additional time objectives in the playoffs.

For Carolina, which received a ruthlessly aggressive Central Division, their bedrock is Coach Rod Brind’Amour. As a participant, Brind’Amour powered the Hurricanes to the finals in 2002 and a championship in 2006 as captain. Brind’Amour is one in every of solely three gamers to win two Selke Trophies as the league’s finest defensive ahead and to attain greater than 1,000 profession factors.

Not each former participant succeeds behind the bench or in the entrance workplace, however each Sakic and Brind’Amour have circled their organizations in their second acts. Both groups are in the second spherical: The Avalanche swept the St. Louis Blues to develop into the primary staff to advance this 12 months and are taking part in Vegas, and the Hurricanes beat Nashville in six video games to arrange a collection towards the defending champion Lightning. Carolina misplaced, 2-Zero, to Tampa Bay on Tuesday to fall behind two video games to none in the collection. Colorado will attempt to go up 2-Zero over Vegas on Wednesday.

“They didn’t take any game for granted,” stated Luc Robitaille, a Hall of Famer who performed towards each and is president of one in every of his former groups, the Los Angeles Kings. “I think probably that would be the simplest way to describe them as players, and then they take that into their post-playing career — well, that means they don’t take any day for granted still.”

The Avalanche received this 12 months’s President’s Trophy as the highest staff leaguewide, however Sakic’s tenure didn’t begin sturdy.

His first three seasons as common supervisor ended and not using a playoff look. In the third, 2016-17, the Avalanche posted a meager 48 factors, 21 fewer than another staff that season and the bottom whole because the introduction of the shootout.

The staff then went by means of a protracted drama with Matt Duchene, one in every of its star forwards, and Sakic drew criticism as time handed and not using a decision. Colorado got here out forward in a three-team deal that landed it one high defensive prospect and a draft choose it used to pick one other.

Colorado has now made the playoffs in every of the previous 4 seasons, and has designs on its first Cup in 20 years.

“I think that patient approach in building when the time is right has really helped us,” Jared Bednar, Colorado’s coach because the 2016-17 season, stated. “It’s helped push us excessive over the previous few years. I imply, yearly we’ve been including guys who’ve been making impacts for us.”

Colorado received the President’s Trophy, swept St. Louis in the primary spherical and took a 1-Zero lead over Vegas.Credit…Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

In Carolina, the staff went to the convention finals in Brind’Amour’s remaining full season as captain, 2008-9, and didn’t return to the playoffs till 2018-19, his first season as head coach. This is the Hurricanes’ third consecutive look.

Apart from the franchise’s first playoff look after relocating from Hartford, Conn., a first-round loss to Boston in 1999, Brind’Amour has been both a distinguished participant or the top coach in each playoff sport in Carolina historical past.

While the Hurricanes have develop into identified for the ebullience of their “storm surge” postgame celebrations, Brind’Amour’s depth has outlined the staff, stated Jeff Daniels, an assistant on Brind’Amour’s workers who performed with and coached him.

“He sets the tone everyday, and he did that as a player, the way he showed up and worked both on and off the ice, and now you see that as a coach,” Daniels stated.

Sakic and Brind’Amour usually are not alone in this 12 months’s playoffs. Cam Neely, the Hall of Fame ahead who performed most of his profession with Boston, is staff president of the Bruins, who will play the Islanders in the second spherical of this 12 months’s playoffs.

The Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman is on his second main post-playing endeavor. He loved immense success with the Tampa Bay Lightning over eight years as common supervisor, however handed the reins to Julien BriseBois earlier than the group Yzerman helped kind received final 12 months’s Cup. In April 2019, Yzerman returned as common supervisor to Detroit, the place he captained the Red Wings for 19 seasons.

But not all forays into teaching and administration go swimmingly for star gamers. Many of essentially the most profitable coaches had been marginal professionals or profession minor-leaguers, and loads of the executives who had their names engraved on the Stanley Cup solely dreamed of hoisting it in their bodily primes.

Even Sakic’s idol, the four-time champion and profession main scorer Wayne Gretzky, was unable to information the Phoenix Coyotes to a end larger than 12th in the Western Conference in 4 seasons as coach.

The Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier additionally struggled as a coach. He had received six Stanley Cups with the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins as a participant and added a seventh as an assistant coach with Colorado, in 2001. But his head teaching stint in the 2002-Three season lasted simply 54 video games, slowed down by destructive sentiment from not one however two franchises. Islanders followers bristled at one in every of their former stars taking a job with the rival Rangers, whereas Rangers followers had been consternated by his conservative system.

“Being the best player doesn’t mean that you have the inherent abilities to succeed when you’re not playing,” stated Neil Glasberg, an agent who represents coaches like Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan and the previous goalie Patrick Roy, now a coach and govt.

Joe Sakic, proper, received the common season Most worthy participant award and the Stanley Cup in 2001.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Robitaille stated that many gamers retire and suppose that their new occupations throughout the sport can be a continuation of their taking part in careers. Instead, he instructed that it was important to move one’s self to a time when standing was not but a consideration.

“If you have all that success as a player and you turn into management, you have to be willing to go back to when you were a kid, when you were willing to make every sacrifice to get better,” Robitaille stated. “When you start getting into management, it’s not going to be like at the peak of your career when you were scoring 50 goals or batting .300. You’ve got to go back to what made you great.”

Brind’Amour’s contract will expire after the season, however he has been extra involved with holding his teaching and gear staffs intact than together with his personal negotiations. Like Sakic in Colorado, Brind’Amour has develop into inextricable from his franchise and his metropolis.

“It’s my home, so it’s more special to me than just a job, certainly,” Brind’Amour stated.