On Aug. 25th, Joe Sakic, the president of hockey operations for the Colorado Avalanche, made the decision to hire American Hockey League coach Jared Bednar as the head coach to succeed the hole left by the surprise resignation of Patrick Roy.
Sakic revealed his reasoning in the hire.
“I like the way his teams play. It fits with the way we play. We have a fast forward group and that up- tempo, pressure game all over the ice is, first of all, exciting, and it’s going to suit our team,” Sakic said.
During his tenure as a head coach in the minors across multiple teams, Bednar won two championships and made the playoffs four times. Despite having no National Hockey League playing or coaching experience, Sakic was excited for the new hire.
The man who captained an Avalanche team to two Stanley Cup championships, eight straight divisional championships and a playoff streak that spanned over a decade showed his confidence in the new coach.
“It’s tough to win in any league, and to be able to win, you’ve got to be doing something right,” Sakic said.
Sakic has described Bednar as a demanding coach, one whom players respect and will play for. With an Avalanche team that struggled to keep puck control, make defensive plays and score with their core group, Bednar is seen as the man to come in and fire up the players.
The Avalanche have a talented young core that includes Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, and Nathan MacKinnon. Many fans believe that Roy was unable to tap the potential in that talent. Many expected Bednar to a lead team that hadn’t reached the postseason in two years to success.It hasn’t gone according to plan.
In Bednar’s first few weeks, it’s been much of the same. By this time last season, the Avs were 6-9-1. This season, 6-8. Stats-wise, the Avalanche were 19th in goals for, 23rd in goals against, 19th in power-play percentage and 23rd in penalty kill percentage. Up to this point in the 2016- 2017 campaign, the Avalanche rank 28th in goals for, 22nd in goals against, 12th in power-play percentage, and 21st in penalty kill percentage.
To be fair to Bednar, it is his first season as an NHL head coach. After Roy’s resignation and his hire, he had to crash-course the team to his playbook within a few short weeks of the regular season starting. To give context, Bednar was hired on Aug. 25, 2016, about a month and a half before the regular season started. Roy was hired on May 23, 2013, giving him four and a half months to prepare for his first year as an NHL head coach. Roy, like most coaches, had more than half of a year to introduce his team to his playbook, a luxury that Bednar wasn’t afforded.
Even so, he took the Avalanche through the preseason undefeated while several of his key players were off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. The team started hot, defeating the heavyweight Dallas Stars and 2015-2016 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
But since then, the wheels have come off. Their goals-for average has dropped from a 2.7 to a measly 2.1, while their goals against average is sitting at a 3.0. The Avalanche have won only two games in the month as we reach the halfway point of November, one of which was won on an own-goal by Winnipeg in the overtime period.
One can argue that at this point in the season, he has had the deck somewhat unfairly stacked against him. However, over the next month and a half, the Avalanche need to find their identity as a team and start winning. Bednar may have had a rough start to his NHL coaching career, but if the Avalanche are continuing to struggle with two months of regular season play under their belt, it may be time to start looking at the roster, and even the core group, as the problem that a simple head coaching change cannot solve.