The Colorado Avalanche must part ways with the losingest coach in franchise history, Jared Bednar. He is making a shaky team worse.
The Colorado Avalanche are a bad team. They are, in fact, the worst in the NHL. At 53 games into the season, the Avs have a 15-36-2 record, which puts them on pace for worst season in franchise history. They’re on pace for the fewest regulation wins since the Atlanta Thrashers’ inaugural season when they went 14-57-7.
Luckily the Avalanche have already bettered that win record, but the Thrashers’ sophomore season record of 23-45-12? That may be where Colorado ends up.
Now, embarrassingly, the Avalanche can’t blame being a brand new team with all the hiccups of starting from scratch. They’re in their 21st year in Colorado alone.
Let’s look at why they might be so bad.
Reasons for Bad Season
There’s plenty of places to lay blame. For one, the Colorado Avalanche’s best players haven’t exactly been playing at an elite level. Nathan MacKinnon has the most points — 38. That doesn’t even put him in the top 50 in the NHL.
Matt Duchene has the most goals on the team with 15. Again, that’s not even top 50.
You could point to a leaky defense. The team has a goal differential of -74. That’s worst in the NHL by a wide margin. We’re talking the Arizona Coyotes are second worst with -45.
Goal tending has been tough. Starting net minder Semyon Varlamov has been in and out of the lineup with groin issues. Before he finally ended his season with groin surgery, he had a goals against average of 3.38 and save percentage of .898. Nope, not top 50 material in either category.
Backup-cum-starter Calvin Pickard has struggled, too, with a 3.02 goals against average and .904 save percentage. He at least is at #51 for goalies who have played more than 10 games — top 50 if you only consider 20-game goalies (or regular NHL starters).
Interestingly, the Colorado Avalanche aren’t dead last in the power play department, though they are second to last with a 14.5 percentage. (It’s a small consolation that the Detroit Red Wings are the only team that’s worse.)
Oh joy, the Avs aren’t even in the bottom five when it comes to penalty kill — they hold the #25 spot with a 78.2% kill average. Of course, they’ve been taking a lot of penalties, so the penalty kill gets a lot of work.
When you look at the players this team has, though, you start to imagine they shouldn’t be quite that bad:
- Matt Duchene
- Gabriel Landeskog
- Nathan MacKinnon
- Mikko Rantanen
- Jarome Iginla
- Erik Johnson
- Tyson Barrie
- Francois Beauchemin
Say what you will about some of these players, but they’ve had hockey success at a lot of different levels. There’s even a legit Hall of Famer in that list. Yes, he’s old by pro hockey standards, but so was Ray Bourque.
Are those players with their current supporting cast Stanley Cup contenders? No. I’d even go so far as to say they’re not even a bubble playoff team.
I wouldn’t say they should be the worst team in franchise history, though. The reason the Colorado Avalanche are the laughingstock of the NHL can be blamed on their coaching — on Jared Bednar, specifically.
Evaluating Jared Bednar
More from Mile High Sticking
For some reason, a lot of Avalanche fans want to give Jared Bednar a pass. I don’t understand it. They point out that he’s “only” had 53 games of NHL experience. They point out that Colorado “only” had six weeks to find a head coach. (Some fans say three, but Patrick Roy resigned on August 11, a full six weeks before the preseason.)
They point out that Bednar doesn’t have a strong team in front of him.
To the first point, Bednar has been getting progressively worse, not better. The Colorado Avalanche were undefeated in the preseason. They got off to a 4-3 record in October, including a roadie that saw them playing some of the best teams in the NHL.
November is where things started to get shaky. The team went 5-7-1. They started struggling to even reach 500 hockey.
By December, when the team’s best defenseman, Erik Johnson, was taken out with an injury, their spiral had begun. Yes, the loss of Johnson exposed the team’s weakness on defense, but how to explain November?
And now, we’re hoping the Colorado Avalanche get 20 wins in an 82-game season. Bottom. Feeders.
Try watching Bednar coach. I’ve seen him get flustered. I’ve seen him get confused. I’ve seen him make unexplainable decisions. For instance, he benched Nathan MacKinnon for a period. However, the team’s worst defenseman, Francois Beauchemin, continues to get top minutes.
Indeed, the decline of players such as future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, Stanley Cup winner Francois Beauchemin and our young talent could be blamed on Bednar.
To the second point, in his “only” six weeks, Sakic interviewed two far more suitable candidates — Kevin Dineen and Davis Payne. Both have NHL coaching experience and were assistant coaches on Stanley Cup winning teams (Chicago Blackhawks and LA Kings respectively).
Let’s look at the third point a little more in-depth, by comparing Bednar to the previous coach, who had a similar team with similar problems in front of him.
MORE FROM MILE HIGH STICKING: Bednar Benches Best Players
Jared Bednar vs Patrick Roy
Consider this: The Colorado Avalanche lost only the following regulars from last season:
Plus a few rentals:
None of those are huge difference-makers. There have been decent replacements:
Plus a few newbies:
- Mark Barberio
- Matt Nieto
Patrick Roy was able to take a team that had Nate Guenin on defense and coach them to within five points of the playoffs last year. They went 39-39-4. (Yes, the Avs almost have that many losses already at game 53.)
You might cite injuries, specifically to Erik Johnson and Semyon Varlamov. Well, during the 2014-15 season the Colorado Avalanche were second only to the Columbus Blue Jackets in man games lost due to injury. That was a season in which Varlamov’s groin started going wonky. Johnson left mid-January with knee surgery, never to return that season. MacKinnon suffered a broken foot and missed the last few weeks of the season. John Mitchell (who was relevant then) was in and out of the lineup with concussion issues.
And yet Patrick Roy coached the team to a 39-31-12 record.
Let’s look at the idea that Bednar is a rookie coach. Well, he coached his AHL team, the Lake Erie Monsters, to a Calder Cup last year. He coached his ECHL team, the South Carolina Stingrays, to a Kelly Cup. Compared to that, Patrick Roy “only” coached a major juniors team, the QMJHL Quebec Remparts, to a trophy (the President’s Cup).
Yet Roy also coached the Colorado Avalanche to a 52-22-8 record that won them the Central Division and ushered the team into their first playoff appearance in four years. In his rookie season.
The point of this post isn’t to point out that Patrick Roy was a better coach than Jared Bednar will ever be — that will part of the Patrick Roy Was Right series coming out this summer.
The point of this post is to point out Bednar should not be coaching the Colorado Avalanche.
MORE FROM MILE HIGH STICKING: Avs Broke Faith with Patrick Roy
Why Bednar is Still Employed — and Let’s Change That
I’m askinga simple question: Why is Jared Bednar still behind the Colorado Avalanche bench? Why on earth does he deserve the chance to keep coaching our team into laughingstock status? Why has Joe Sakic not fired Bednar?
The only rationale I can come up with at this time is that there’s no point in firing Jared Bednar right now. The team knew before mid-season they weren’t making the playoffs. Maybe Sakic wants to take his time to find a really good coach for his young team.
There are options out there. Kevin Dineen and Davis Payne are both still available. Former Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant is still available. Ken Hitchcock and Claude Julien — the winningest coach on an original six team, the Boston Bruins — are available. Rumor has it current Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff will be available this summer.
MORE FROM MILE HIGH STICKING: Bednar in Over his Head
Pray God Sakic hires one of those coaches or a similarly suitable replacement for Jared Bednar. Because the alternative is that he’s going to stubbornly stick with his choice, which I suspect was made because the hokey, humble but plodding Saskatchewanian is the polar opposite of the fiery, eloquent, egotistical Quebecois Patrick Roy.
Long story short: Jared Bednar must be fired.
By Nadia Archuleta for Mile High Sticking
(Editor’s note: Go ahead and point out my Patrick Roy obsession. Does it make any of my points above invalid? Nope.)