The job of a Head Coach is one of the most pressure-packed positions in all sports. Sure, it’s a great gig to have when things are going well for your team, but the second anything starts to go wrong, everybody is breathing down your neck to provide answers. Why didn’t you adjust to this? Why did X player get time in this situation instead of another? It’s a position that gets too much credit when things go
Why didn’t you adjust to this? Why did ‘X’ player get time in this situation instead of another?
It’s a position that gets too much credit when things go right and too much blame when things go wrong, but that’s sports. Perhaps the most important job of a Head Coach, in any league, is to provide the team with an identity. A simple mantra that players, coaches, and fans can all go back to when defining their team. New Avalanche Head Coach, Jared Bednar, may have just given the Colorado Avalanche the exact mantra they need to find their identity.
You Get What You Earn
Coach Bednar made a simple statement when addressing the desires of a couple of players in Avalanche training camp: “You get what you earn.” While this statement is simple and might earn little more than an approving nod from a fan casually streaming through their timeline on Twitter, it also should serve as a reminder one of the biggest failings of the Avalanche in previous seasons. The Avalanche, in far too many incredibly important scenarios, simply played like a team that expected something positive to happen rather than going and earning it.
Nowhere was this more obvious than in Colorado’s catastrophic end to the 2015-16 season. Needing only a couple of wins down the stretch to pull even and surpass an equally dismal Minnesota Wild team, the Avalanche played some of their most atrocious hockey of the season. It was as if the attitude was, “as long as we just get on the ice in our last ten games, we will probably be able to win at least three of them.” And, while that is probably a reasonable assumption, the team still has to go out and earn every single win that they get. Instead of earning the points that they needed, the Avalanche collapsed upon themselves.
A Consistent Message
If there’s one thing that will need to be different in Bednar’s tenure than Patrick Roy’s tenure, it will need to be message consistency. Now, I’m not out here saying that Roy had no consistent message to his team, we certainly heard consistent sound clips throughout his tenure, but not when it came to team identity. About the most consistent thing that was there for the Avalanche was the “Why Not Us” theme that dominated that run to the Central Division title. That certainly resonated with the players that particular season, which is great, but it didn’t have any staying power. It was obvious that the team didn’t seem to know who they were any more after that season. They were no longer the plucky underdog being counted out, now people expected things out of them and they didn’t know what to do with that.
To make matters worse, it seemed that there was never a consistent message of how the team should be playing. It seemed to go back and forth between “make sure all your shots are high percentage shots,” to “we’re not getting enough shots on goal, get the puck on goal and crash the net.” When a team goes through struggles, and all teams do at some point in any season, the coach has to be able to take them back to the team’s basic identity to get things moving again. You get what you earn is the type of simple message that can bring the team back onto the same page. It’s just like the old saying: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
It’s obvious that the Avalanche players want to get the team back to the playoffs, nobody wants to be home in May watching other teams strive for the ultimate goal. The talent has been there for the team to be in the playoffs, but talent alone can’t do it. If the Avalanche hope to be playing hockey in April and May, then it’s time for them to listen up to their new coach.
Boys, you get what you earn.
I’m a Denver native who has been a fan of the Avalanche since they came to town and a fan of the game before that. I started writing my own blog a couple years ago before moving to Bleacher Report and becoming a Featured Columnist there. You can also find me the Burgundy Brigade Podcast