Colorado Avalanche: Should the Team Consider Ken Hitchcock?

Jan 22, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock on his bench in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock on his bench in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche should consider firing Jared Bednar and hiring Ken Hitchcock as his replacement.

As a Colorado Avalanche fan, I don’t like Ken Hitchcock, the former coach of the St. Louis Blues.

A lot of this dislike stems from the incident in which then-captain David Backes tackled and tried to hog-tie then-rookie Nathan MacKinnon. Then-coach Patrick Roy called the move “gutless” to which Hitchcock responded:

"“He can say whatever he wants. He always has something to say after every game.”"

So annoying. I never really liked his coaching style either. He has a history of calling out his own players in the media.

Despite that, I think he should replace Jared Bednar as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche.

Jared Bednar so Bad

I don’t understand why Jared Bednar still has a job as head coach of the Avalanche.

That’s not true. I know it’s because he’s a product of the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, with whom the Avs have close ties. I also know that GM Joe Sakic appreciates his calm demeanor as well as his coaching style. At the time of Bednar’s hiring, Sakic said:

"“The way he likes his team to play the game, I think it is going to be a real good fit.”"

Later, in early December as the Colorado Avalanche were starting to really falter, Sakic again expressed his confidence in Bednar’s system:

"“I think when the players are playing it and playing with that consistency and urgency, then we’re fine. And I think that’s how you have to play in today’s game. …Overall, I think the players are still adjusting and that’s a consistency type thing with the system. It’s not a hard system, but it’s still a work in progress.”"

While his ECHL and AHL coaching career was good — he won the Kelly Cup in the former and the Calder Cup in the latter, his NHL coaching career thus far is characterized by this record: 13-32-2.

That’s the Colorado Avalanche’s current record, and that’s a .27 win percentage. So bad.

It is not all Bednar’s fault. There have been key injuries, specifically to top defenseman Erik Johnson and starting goalie Semyon Varlamov. There isn’t much of a defense. There seems to be little in the way of offense.

However, a lot of it can be laid at Bednar’s feet. For example, he seems to run his meritocracy willy nilly. Nathan MacKinnon might get benched for a period for making a few mistakes. Yet Fedor Tyutin continues to get premium ice time despite being the worst on the blueline for both CorsiFor percent (44.5) and relative Corsi (-3.4).

And Francois Beauchemin continues to be a favorite despite standing at the goal crease and allowing a goal in pretty much every single game.

A couple notes. Yes, Bednar is a rookie NHL coach, and yes, I was content to give Patrick Roy three full years. (I actually wanted him to have his full five.) However, Bednar didn’t earn that right by being a player hero for the Avalanche.

Second, Roy took essentially this same team and coached them to within five points of a playoff spot last season (with both Johnson and Varlamov being out with injuries for part of the season). Bednar has coached them to the worst record in franchise history.

Jared Bednar should be fired as the Colorado Avalanche coach.

Ken Hitchcock So Good

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On the flip side, no one’s going to accuse Ken Hitchcock of being a bad coach. In the NHL, he’s gone 781-474-88-111 (tied-OT losses in order), which is good for a .606 win percentage. He’s coached teams to eight division titles and coached the 1998-99 Dallas Stars to their only Stanley Cup win. He has a .512 win percentage in the playoffs.

Yet the St. Louis Blues fired Hitchcock after the team lost five out of six games. (The Avalanche had only one win in all of January and are currently on an eight-game losing streak. Prior to that single January win, they’d lost 11 straight.)

To be fair, Hitchcock’s Blues have struggled in recent years. They’ve had great regular season success followed by early playoff exits. This year, they’ve even been struggling during the regular season.

Nonetheless, Hitchcock would be a sharp upgrade on Bednar.

Hitchcock and the Colorado Avalanche

Right about now you might be remarking that Ken Hitchcock has said he’ll retire after this season. A couple things about that. First of all, the Colorado Avalanche have 36 games remaining. Maybe they could get some good coaching again and learn some good habits again.

Second, plans change. Ken Hitchcock is just two wins shy of passing AL Arbour for third-most wins in NHL history. Surely he could coach Colorado to two wins in their remaining 36 games.

Maybe he’d even be revitalized. Maybe he’d want to coach for one more season after starting to turn the Avalanche around. Maybe he’d want to show Roy that he could even do a site better next year than Patrick did in his rookie season.

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It all boils down to this. The Colorado Avalanche would like to finish as close to 500 hockey as possible so as not to be embarrassed. The only way that’s going to happen is with a big shakeup.

A lot of people are agitating for Sakic to trade a core player in the hopes of making the team better. I’m less convinced than ever that that’s the best course.

Firing the coach and bringing in this veteran is a shakeup with a lot less negative ramifications for the future. There is no reason to think Jared Bendar is the future of the Colorado Avalanche as far as coaches go. Using him as the catalyst for change is a lot less disastrous to the team than trading Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog.

What do you think? Should the Avs fire Bednar and hire Hitchcock?

By Nadia Archuleta for Mile High Sticking