Avalanche’s Jared Bednar Paves Own Path to NHL Success

When Jared Bednar was named head coach of the Colorado Avalanche before the 2016-17 season, he inherited a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in five of the previous six seasons. At the press conference announcing his hiring, team president Joe Sakic said the club picked Bednar to get the team to a level of “learning how to win.”

Now entering his seventh season as the Avalanche’s head coach, Bednar has done much more than that – guiding the team to its third Stanley Cup this past summer, solidifying his case as the best coach in franchise history along the way. It’s been a long journey for Bednar – one that probably isn’t done yet. Here’s a look back at how the Avalanche landed the best coach in club history, and what’s up next for him:

Roy Forced Avalanche to Act Quickly

Patrick Roy abruptly resigned on Aug. 11, 2016, ending his three-year stint as Colorado’s head coach. He had one year left on his contract, but left the team in a lurch, citing some philosophical differences. Opening night was roughly two months away, leaving Colorado with little time to figure out a replacement. A quick two weeks later, they turned to Bednar – who was fresh off winning the Calder Cup as the American Hockey League (AHL) champion with the Lake Erie Monsters.

Head coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche
Head coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche in his second season with the team. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bednar’s first season in Denver was brutal. The Avalanche finished with the worst record in the NHL, and it wasn’t even close. They posted a 22-56-4 record, and the 48 points were 21 away from the league’s second-worst team. It was the team’s worst season since moving to Colorado in 1995 and was the second-worst record in franchise history. Only the dismal 1989-90 season by the Quebec Nordiques (12-61-7) was worse.

Related: Jared Bednar: Creating Colorado’s New Identity

But the Avalanche didn’t despair for long, as Bednar has taken Colorado to the postseason every year since. They were dropped in the first round in his second season, and the second round in the three campaigns after that. They finally broke through in 2021-22 to win the Stanley Cup behind his fast-paced style.

Bednar Stamps Name in Team History Books

Winning the Cup made Bednar the third coach in Avalanche history to lift the famous trophy. This was his first NHL job, but that’s been a recipe for success with Colorado. Both of his predecessors that also won titles – Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley – also didn’t have any NHL experience before leading the Avalanche. However, Bednar was no stranger to championships.

Jared Bednar Colorado Avalanche
Head Coach Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bednar was coming off an AHL title when the Avs hired him, and he also led the South Carolina Stingrays to the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions in 2008-09. The Stanley Cup victory this summer made him the first coach to win the current ECHL, AHL and NHL championship trophies. At 50 years old, he isn’t done yet, and he’s stacked up a pretty good resume so far.

Bednar has led the Avalanche to the playoffs in five of his six seasons and to its third Presidents’ Trophy at the end of the 2020-21 season. His 240 victories are the most in team history, as are his 454 games coached. It doesn’t look like he’s done winning yet, either. Bednar still has two seasons left on his current contract, but if his first half dozen seasons are any indication, he could be racking up wins in Denver for many years past that.

Sky Continues To Be Bednar’s Limit

The Avalanche are the NHL’s reigning champions, and they look like they could be in the conversation for more titles in the foreseeable future. There is a huge free agent looming in superstar Nathan MacKinnon, who is entering the final year of his contract. Stars like Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen are all locked up for multiple seasons. If they can get MacKinnon signed to an extension, the core is there to help Bednar lead them to another championship.

Colorado Avalanche Jared Bednar
Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Bednar is in that group, too. His current deal goes through the 2023-24 season, and it’ll likely get extended again. The only thing he hasn’t won is a Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach, and that’s difficult for a perennial contender to win. Only three coaches have won it and the Stanley Cup in the same season, and only two in the last 20 years have been named top coach after leading their team to the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Jack Adams Award could certainly be in Bednar’s future, but the focus hasn’t been on individual accomplishments for his entire career. As zeroed in as he is on the future and continuing Colorado’s winning ways, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. When he got his day with the Stanley Cup, he took it back to the site of his first success in the minor leagues – which paved the way for him to get to Denver. He’s already the most successful coach in team history, but he might not be done leading the Avs to even more hardware.

Related: Colorado Avalanche Coach Jared Bednar Chasing Team Greats

The Avalanche look built to contend for a while, and they won’t slow down with Bednar’s fast-paced style that pushed them to last season’s Cup. Many think that wrapping up MacKinnon’s extension is the most important thing Sakic will oversee as president of hockey operations, but that snap decision made back in August of 2016 to hire Bednar will always be one of the best moves he has ever made.

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