Colorado Avalanche: Winless Streak Should Put Bednar on the Hot Seat

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche handles bench duties against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 22, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche handles bench duties against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 22, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

While the Colorado Avalanche are not in their losing skid primarily because of coach Jared Bednar, the current winless streak should put him on the hot seat.

Resolved: The Colorado Avalanche are not losing only because of coach Jared Bednar. I’d even hazard to say they’re not losing primarily because of coach Bednar. But the Avs have a winning problem — in that they haven’t been able to do so recently. So saying they have no coaching problem is failing to to look at all aspects of the issue.

Yes, Colorado has been atrocious on the penalty kill.

Yes, Colorado has gotten sub-standard goal tending.

Yes, Colorado isn’t getting enough secondary scoring, especially from this year’s sophomores.

Yes, Colorado’s defense breaks down several times a period.

Yes, Colorado players make stupid decisions both with and without the puck several times a period.

Yes, Colorado often fails when teams shut down the top line.

How do you solve substandard goal tending? How do you solve secondary scoring? How do you solve being a one-line team with sophomores who aren’t performing up to standard? How do you solve consistent defensive breakdowns? Trade for a goalie/foward/defenseman?

It ain’t easy to solve roster problems. You have to identify which player will deliver the most bang for the trade — and not just in what you get back but in what you lose by trading him. You have to peruse his contract to look for any pitfalls like, oh, no-trade clauses. Then you have to find a fellow GM to play poker with.

And when you’re Joe Sakic, you have to remember teams don’t want to be the next Pierre Dorion, trading an awful lot away for a player the team actually didn’t need. Joe was a shark in that deal, but now that reputation precedes him.

How do you solve the focus problems? Team meetings? Video? A promise to get better? Look again at that trade thing?

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Yes. All of the above, and more. When a team is in the basement, you commit to a rebuild and just grin and bear what turns out to be a 48-point season because, hey, what have you got to lose? (I mean, a top-three draft pick, but the Draft Lottery couldn’t possibly slant that way again, could it?)

The Colorado Avalanche aren’t in the basement, though. They’re in Year 2 of the rebuild after that dreadful 48-point season. They have the hottest line in hockey and a stable full of talent just waiting to take the next step. They are poised to become a team moving in the right direction.

They’re also poised to be a team that slides back into losing. The 2018-19 season does not remind me of the 48-point season. It reminds me of the one that came right before — 2015-16. That was the Year of the Collapse. That was one year removed after the Golden Why Not Us season. That was right after the season in which we saw the Avs miss the playoffs after winning the Central, but, hey, they also had the second-most man-games lost due to injury.

Right now, the Avs are reminding me of 2015-16 because that was the season during which they were playoff contenders right until the end — until they freefell right out of a playoff spot. Stop me if that sounds familiar.

Or keep right on going and remind me of what happened right after that season, the all-important Year 3. Colorado changed coaches.

HowlI knew this was about Patrick Roy! He quit on the team right before the season started and that’s why they were a 48-point team that year!

Resolved: The Colorado Avalanche are not losing only because of coach Jared Bednar. However, please remind me of what everyone was saying in that all-important Year 3 about the coach? I think it was something that rhymed with hired but is actually the exact opposite. (Unless you’re British, in which case it rhymes with, well, packed, which is less poetic.)

Fired. A large contingency of Avs fans wanted Roy fired. (Or sacked, if you’re British.)

I repeat, the Avs aren’t losing only because of Bednar, but they are losing and it’s at least partially due to Bednar. It has to be. Either you’re a part of the team and, ergo, a part of the problem (like Roy apparently was in 2015-16), or you’re not a part of the team. In which case, that seems like a bigger problem when you’re the coach.

GM Joe Sakic didn’t fire head coach Roy because the collapse happened later in the season and, hey, Patrick got him a couple Stanley Cup rings, so that has to count for something. Also, bad, bad look firing a franchise player hero in the midst of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the team’s glory.

What about old Jared, though? Yes, coach Bednar has a winning record at the lower levels. And Tyson Jost has fantastic player numbers at the lower levels. Bednar doesn’t have a winning record at the NHL level (85-103-21) any more than Jost is displaying success at the NHL level (38 points in 112 games). And yet there’s a virulent contingency that’s ready to declare the 20-year-old a bust.

Howl: But it’s Patrick Roy’s fault Bednar had the losing season! Bednar was saddled with his roster!

Counter-howl: But it’s Jared Bednar’s fault Jost isn’t taking the next step forward! He’s saddled with a coach who only attends to the top line rather than develop the young guys!

I don’t hate Jared Bednar, and, I’ll repeat a third time, I don’t think he’s the main problem. He is, however, the most replaceable part of the problem. You don’t have to choose amongst 20 men — he’s the head coach. You don’t have to eyeball other GMs or scrutinize Bednar’s contract.

You just have to call Bednar into your office and state, “Jared, I likes ya, the team likes ya, you’re not the problem, but something’s gotta give. And that something is you. Sorry, old boy, best of luck.”

What does that fix? Not everything, but it does buy you some time. The team gets an instant injection of adrenaline and, let’s be honest, shame because a man lost his job because of them.

And that gives Joe time to call up Joel Quenneville and say, “Hey, I know there was some bad blood between you and the Avs, but it wasn’t me. In fact, I was your captain, remember? And you were once a Colorado Rockies player? C’mon, what say we bury the hatchet?”

As you once again prepare to argue that Bednar isn’t the problem, remember that Quenneville is only available because he, too, got fired. After winning three Stanley Cups with the core roster that’s still in Chicago. Ergo: He wasn’t the problem either.

It’s a pro sports thing. It ain’t fair, but it persists because it often works. Coaches get fired when the team fails them.

One last nugget: NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire stated that Stanley Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz, currently with the New York Islanders, had developed a  “secret” formula for beating the Avs which essentially mounts to playing a heavy, physical game against them to slow them down.

And the Avalanche have yet to find an answer for that formula. Indeed, for those of you who like numerical evidence, here it is: In the 11 games Colorado has played since that 4-1 Islanders loss, they’ve gone 2-7-2.

McGuire said teams are copying Trotz’s formula against the Avs. Per Avs insider Adrian Dater, Bednar countered after the Montreal loss:

"“You can make some minor adjustments, but I don’t think teams are altering their playing style to play the Colorado Avalanche.”"

In other words, he’s not buying it — which means he’s not adjusting to it. Instead, he blamed checking and battles lost. He continued:

"“I didn’t think our puck support was the way it was the last couple of games. They’d stand us up and we didn’t have enough guys coming on the puck. And we’d run out of numbers and they’d grab it and transition it the other way.”"

Sloppy play. Errors. Loss of mental focus. Players not making the next step in their development… At which point is coaching still not at least partially to blame?

Hey, I’m not advocating for Bednar to be fired because I still think he’s only part of the problem, not the main problem. However, the Colorado Avalanche do have something to lose this season — a playoff spot.

Next. MacKinnon Vents Frustration with Bednar. dark

As an Avalanche fan, I hope Joe Sakic is watching the next couple games carefully. I hope he observes how the Canadian roadie finally plays out. No chance at .500 hockey, much less a winning record, but you should expect at least one win.

Then he should scrutinize the three-game home stand. All three are against conference rivals, with two against division rivals. And two games are against non-playoff teams — one against the basement team of the NHL.

And if the Avs don’t earn two wins out of those three games? Coupled with a single road win? Especially if your superior hockey vision — Sakic is a Hall of Famer — shows you opponents are absolutely using a specific style of play to beat your team.

Well, the Bye-Week and All Star Weekend conveniently give our shrewd GM over a week to test the waters with Quenneville or other NHL-proven coaches. And have an unpleasant conversation with a man who just didn’t pan out with this team at this time.