The Colorado Avalanche owe it to the young core and to the fan base to keep Jared Bednar on a short leash next season.
Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar is not a winner in the NHL.
That is a fact. Bednar has only ever done one thing in the NHL, and that is coach the Colorado Avalanche last season. The Avalanche went 22-56-48 last year, dead last in the NHL and the worst season in the salary cap era.
You can debate why the Avalanche had such a bad season. Many fans give Bednar a pass, essentially saying he had to play the hand he was dealt. However, that doesn’t change the fact that his only professional NHL experience is a losing season of coaching.
Now, Jared Bednar is returning as the head coach next year. I’ve made no secret that I’m not happy about that. However, that fact and $4 will get you Starbucks (or Tim Hortons if you’re up in Canada). The guy whose opinion matters in this case, GM Joe Sakic, has expressed his faith in Bednar:
"“He’s coming back…I know he’s excited and we’re excited to have the whole summer in place to get ready for next training camp, the way he wants to run his training camp with this group.”"
So that’s that. Jared Bednar is returning as coach of the Colorado Avalanche. Now, he’s going to have a new crew around him. The Avalanche let go of two assistant coaches, Tim Army and Dave Farrish, as well as the goalie coach, Francoise Allaire. At the time of writing, it was presumed Finnish-trained goalie coach Jussi Parkkila would be taking that position for Colorado, but no news on who would comprise the rest of the coaching staff.
In any case, moving forward, this is supposed to be Jared Bednar’s “real” chance. He’s going to have the “proper” amount of time to prepare. He’s going to have at least a say in who comes in as his coaching staff. Now we’re supposed to see what he can really do at the helm.
That begs the question, though — how long should Jared Bednar’s leash be?
These days, when you’re a blogger wanting to find out something, you turn to Twitter. Indeed, the social media platform even has a handy poll feature.
I posed the question, “How much time should the Avs give Bednar to succeed before firing him?” via the official account and also debated it unofficially on my own Twitter.
The results from the official Twitter poll surprised me:
The majority of Avalanche fans who voted, 35%, voted to give Bednar the entire season. About 50% of the respondents voted between 10 to 20 games. Only one respondent came in with a write in:
To be fair, Hippy Dog is the Avs fan who inspired the poll:
At the time, he was a little more lenient:
During other unoffical polls from my own Twitter, respondents came up with different ideas:
At the time of the Twitter polling, I “joked” with Hippy Dog that he only got to lose one game then softened it to two — with his firing papers being drafted in the second intermission of that game.
I’ve already stated that I don’t think he should be coming back. I’m not going to hash out why yet again — read my latest rationale here:
Jared Bednar is returning, but I don’t agree with the 35% majority who wanted to give him a whole year. First of all, there’s no guarantee the Colorado Avalanche are going to be any better next season. They still have shallow depth at every position. And there actually is a possibility for worse than just 22 wins — the Quebec Nordiques won just 12 games with Joe Sakic on their roster.
Now, let’s say the Colorado Avalanche keep both Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. Both are in their prime. Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie are just entering their prime. Erik Johnson is peaking. Both Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost are entering crucial stages of their developmental process.
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Why on earth would you want to burn off a whole year of those players’ careers to give Jared Bednar another chance at coaching just because he had success at lower levels? It’s a numbers game — Duchene, Landeskog, MacKinnon, Barrie and Johnson have all had success in the NHL. Rantanen and Jost look poised to have great success if developed right. They all deserve their best chance next year at furthering their careers.
And if Jared Bednar isn’t giving them their best chance, he should go.
It’s tricky letting a coach go in the middle of the season. Typically teams surge for a while. Quite often they return to the ailments that caused the coach to be fired. Occasionally, as in the case with Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
The Bob Hartley Equation
In 2002, the Colorado Avalanche were just one season removed from their epic Stanley Cup repeat performance that gave Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque his first and only Cup victory. Bob Hartley had coached that star-studded cast to the Finals. The previous two years he’d coached them to the Conference Finals, and the year after the Cup, he coached them to the Conference Finals again.
In his career with the Colorado Avalanche, he coached them to a 193-108-48-10 record in the regular season — a winning record. However, the 2002-03 Colorado Avalanche were still dedicated to excellency. So, when the Avs got off to a 10-8-9-4 shot, putting them just one game above 500, Hartley was relieved of his duties.
That was 31 games into the season. To make it a nice, round number, I say Colorado gives Jared Bednar to the 30-game mark of the 2017-18 season. He doesn’t even have to be coaching a winning season — the roster is still going to be a little rough. But I’d say he has to be at 500 hockey.
I’d then evaluate him in 10-game increments until the trade deadline. If the Colorado Avalanche are slipping into a losing season, he’s gone.
For this to be an effective tactic, the Avs need to have an ace in the hole. Maybe they need to evaluate if San Antonio Rampage head coach, Eric Villeux, could step in as the Colorado Avalanche coach. Maybe they need to ensure there’s a suitable candidate on the current coaching staff — there are still two openings available.
The big leagues are the big leagues for a reason. They’re the most elite level in any sport. The Colorado Avalanche have to show a commitment to their talented young core of players as well as to the fanbase. None of us deserve another debacle like the 2016-17 season.
If, as Joe Sakic believes, Jared Bednar is the man to lead the Avs into the new age, then so be it. But Sakic owes it to all of us to make the hard decision to yank his pet coach if the situation warrants it.
Note to readers: Admit it — this is the gentlest stance I’ve ever taken on Jared Bednar. Keep that in mind as you’re phrasing your comments. 🙂