The Colorado Avalanche had the worst record in the cap era last year, and some of the blame fell on Jared Bednar. Can the coach recoup?
The Colorado Avalanche were put in virtually a no-win situation last season. After the announcement that coach Patrick Roy was stepping down from his post on August 11, the Avalanche needed to find a replacement before training camp started.
After interviewing several candidates, Joe Sakic and company surprisingly decided on Jared Bednar. His first season in charge led to the worst point totals in the cap era, yet he remains head coach. This season will be the real test, as now I believe he has no excuse not to do drastically better with the Avs.
Jared Bednar, for all intents and purposes, had a pretty good pedigree. If you are not familiar with Bednar and his coaching career before last season with Colorado, he had a history of working his way up. He worked through the ECHL starting as an assistant, moving his way eventually to head coach of the 2008-2009 Kelly Cup winning South Carolina Stingrays.
Bednar’s next move was to the AHL and later he became head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters, winning the Calder Cup in 2015-2016. There is something to be said of a guy who has worked his way up the coaching ladder like Bednar did – and won while doing it. Everyone has to get their coaching start somewhere, and Bednar’s track record looked to be a darn good one.
We all know how last season went. It was an unmitigated disaster. Nothing could go right for that team. It became a nightly game of, “Well, how are they going to screw this game up?” It was hilarious, maddening, depressing, and confusing all at the same time.
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Bednar of course received much of the blame, and some of it was certainly deserved. Some of the post-game interviews he gave might as well have come from a walking, cliche-dispensing robot. I know that most hockey interviews have the same 7 to 8 phrases players and coaches say to virtually any question asked. However, it became clear the longer the season dragged on, the more everyone checked out – Bednar included.
I don’t necessarily blame the guy, it must have been soul crushing. He did what he thought he needed to do in a negative environment, and maybe that was right way to handle it. Patrick Roy, for all his fiery competitiveness, was never one to hide his emotions very well. I don’t know if someone like Roy would have made the situation better, but he probably could have made it worse.
The reason I think Bednar didn’t have the success he was hoping for last season is two fold. One, he did not have the players he wanted for his system. The game he wanted to play was a one based on speed, and lots of it. The goal is to use all that speed to give the opposing players less time on the puck, causing poor decisions, and then gaining possession once they’ve made the poor decision with the puck.
The Avalanche roster last year didn’t have the speed Bednar wanted. Players like Joe Colborne, Carl Soderberg, Andreas Martinsen, Blake Comeau, Rene Bourque, and a pretty much cooked Jarome Iginla were all on the starting roster last year, none of which are the fleetest of foot. That’s not to say they are bad players or can’t be effective, just maybe not in Bednar’s system.
Part two, I believe Bednar didn’t have success last season because had to learn about his players on the fly. He wasn’t able to put in the proper time it took really get to know his players. Having virtually no intimate knowledge of anyone on the roster weeks before training camp started I think was a huge problem. The player-coach relationship is critical to any team’s success.
A great example of a coach really taking the time to know his players is Mike Babcock. Babcock as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs was reported last summer to be calling his players non-stop during the offseason. It didn’t matter if it was hockey related or not, he was going to know how his players were doing.
Babcock strikes me as a guy who lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes hockey. Of course having a roster loaded with young, star talent is likely to lead to a successful season, but this type of relationship between coach and player I believe can be extremely beneficial for general team morale. Coach Bednar should take a lesson or two from him.
I know Bednar is not Mike Babcock, believe me I do. This still is such an important year for Bednar to show he’s grown as a coach; as he has earlier in his coaching career. The good news is he and Sakic have done more to improve this team than the average NHL fan thinks.
Bednar’s got the speed he wanted; some he got during last season via waivers and trades. Including players already here like Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene (however much longer he’s here), Sakic and Co. added Sven Andrighetto, Matt Nieto, and late incomer from UND Tyson Jost. All of these players have the speed for Bednar’s system. In the offseason, he even added a little more with UFA Nail Yakupov.
Bednar has had a full offseason to work with and get to know his players. He’s had a full offseason to get his players to buy into his system and implement it effectively. Lack of talent is not a problem this team has. The Avalanche have a player selected in the top 10 in six out of the past seven entry drafts, so the raw talent is there. This team has the speed and talent to use Bednar’s system effectively, we as Avalanche fans just have to see it all put together.
Most coaches when they arrive into a new system can take a while to get acclimated, and Bednar last year was no exception. However, with how poorly he and Colorado Avalanche players did last season, he’s used up pretty much all the leeway he had. He should be on a short leash this season, but he can earn himself a longer one. He’s had the time to make his system work, now it’s up to him to get the most from his players.
I am willing to give you more leash here Bednar – don’t choke me with it!