NHL Report Christmas in Colorado won’t be the last for Bednar
chicago» irst-year Avalanche coach Jared Bednar envisioned a different Christmas, one that included celebration of becoming an NHL head coach. That still might take place around family in his newly purchased Denver-area home Sunday, but the fact that he’s the bench boss of the NHL’s worst team inevitably suggests his future is in doubt.
The Avalanche is the laughingstock of the league, although Friday’s 2-1 overtime win at Chicago was impressive. Fact remains, the team has the fewest points, lowest scoring average and highest goals-against average, and on pace to finish with its fewest points in club history. The floor of 68 points was established in 2010-11, when coach Joe Sacco’s second team went 30-44-1-1.
The Avs are 12-20-1 (25 points) after a respectable 9-9 start. The roof caved in on Dec. 10 with a 10-1 loss at Montreal, and a similar nightmare unfolded Thursday in Denver in a 6-0 defeat to rebuilding Toronto. This might be the worst stretch in team history.
But Bednar’s job is currently not in jeopardy. He didn’t construct this mess. His coaching isn’t the problem, and it has become obvious that former coach Patrick Roy wasn’t the problem either. The blame is on the players — specifically the highly paid mid-20s core — and front office led by general manager Joe Sakic. The GM can’t build team chemistry, but clearly that’s the primary problem. This talent-rich team simply doesn’t play well together more times than not.
I sense that Bednar knows he’s not the problem, because his first Christmas in Colorado won’t be his last. His wife, Susan, and daughter, Savega, arrived in Denver on Monday, both having been living on the East Coast since Bednar’s lateAugust hiring by the Avs. They’ll settle in for the holidays and beyond with son/brother Kruz, who moved to Colorado with his father and attends Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch.
Jared Bednar’s parents from Saskatchewan, along with his sister and brother-in-law, will also spend the holidays in Colorado.
“I have a full house for Christmas,” Bednar said Friday. “Looking forward to it, and getting a little break. I think it’s a mustneeded break for our team. Obviously, when you’re going through something like this, to be able to get away from the rink and get around loved ones and the holidays — it lets you enjoy some time away and hopefully gets your mind off this so they come back focused and ready to go.”
The Avalanche attempted (and is failing) to follow the Blackhawks’ model of success: Draft the can’t-miss lottery players, add one or two big guns via trade or free agency, and lock them all up longterm while filling the support roles with modest contracts. Chicago is built around draft picks Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford — each of whom are three-time Stanley Cup champions.
That self-drafted core has flourished. Colorado’s drafted core — Matt Duchene, Gabe Landeskog, Tyson Barrie, Nathan MacKinnon — has floundered in three-plus years together. Aside from the 112-point season and first-round playoff series against Minnesota in 2013-14, they have not lived up to expectations. But they’re still each making at least $5.5 million.
As of Friday, among the few things the Avalanche and Blackhawks had in common were their payrolls. According to CapFriendly.com, Chicago’s projected cap hit was $72,760,336 — similar to Colorado’s $72,369,576.
Both were among the league’s top-10 payrolls — if you exclude the Arizona Coyotes and the $18-plus million they’re paying retired players, partly to reach the cap floor.
Beyond that Chicago/Colorado financial comparison, the differences are stark. The Blackhawks entered Friday among the top 10 in goals-per game (2.83) and goals-against average (2.37), while the Avs were dead last in both (2.03 and 3.25). Colorado’s minus-39 differential is also worst in the league.
The Avs do have a financial problem. They can’t add a marquee player without giving one up. They have just $630,000 of projected cap space, according to CapFriendly, so there is will be no addition without a comparable subtraction. If this team continues to underachieve, some members will be spending their last Christmas in Colorado.
But it won’t be the head coach. Mike Chambers: email@example.com or @mikechambers