On Thursday, the Colorado Avalanche named Jared Bednar as their seventh head coach in franchise history.
The hire is a marked shift from Patrick Roy’s high-profile presence on the bench. Roy was one of the greatest goaltenders of all time, leading Colorado to two Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. While he only had coaching experience at the major-junior level before taking the job with the Avalanche, he was a strong and exciting fit for the gig when he arrived in 2013.
Meanwhile, the low-profile Bednar has never played or coached in the NHL. He was a defenseman in the minor leagues, and for the past two seasons he’s been the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Last year, he led the Lake Erie Monsters (recently renamed the Cleveland Monsters), to a 43–32–11 mark and the AHL championship.
The Avs missed the playoffs the past two years under Roy and haven’t advanced past the first round since 2010, so Bednar’s hire has to pay off for team’s front office. It’s not unusual for this franchise to hire coaches without NHL coaching experience; no one seemed to mind Roy’s lack of it, and lest we forget, former windshield factory worker Bob Hartley guided the team to the Stanley Cup in 2001. But general manager Joe Sakic and his colleagues must realize there is little room for error going forward.
Bednar, who won the job over Washington Capitals assistant Lane Lambert, brings an up-tempo style that should fit nicely with talented young players Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon. He’ll also have veterans like Jarome Iginla and Cody McLeod to lean on as he adjusts to the NHL.
That debut is just 50 days away. NHL head coaching jobs don’t typically become available in mid-August, about five weeks before training camp starts. With the way Roy just threw his keys on the table and walked out of Colorado—his sudden resignation came amid reports that he felt he didn’t have enough input in player personnel decisions—it’s understandable that Avalanche fans may be feeling a little leery about the state of the franchise.
Now it’s up to Bednar to quell those fears and lead a more-than-capable Avalanche roster back to the postseason. The team opens at home on October 15 against the Dallas Stars, so Bednar will face high expectations—and a lot of pressure—from day one.