Avs’ MacKin­non deftly han­dles blowup with his coach

Avalanche star re­fresh­ingly can­did on Wed­nes­day’s clash with head coach

Montreal Gazette - - NEWS - STU COWAN [email protected] twit­ter.com/ StuCowan1

On Fri­day, the Colorado Avalanche gave the other 30 teams in the NHL a les­son in how to han­dle a con­tro­ver­sial sit­u­a­tion. It was the def­i­ni­tion of trans­parency. In the dy­ing sec­onds of a 5-3 loss to the Flames Wed­nes­day night in Calgary, TV cam­eras caught Avalanche su­per­star Nathan MacKin­non scream­ing at head coach Jared Bed­nar on the bench — ap­pear­ing to say: “Do your job!” — and throw­ing a water bot­tle be­fore be­ing re­strained by cap­tain Gabriel Lan­deskog and fall­ing off the back of the bench. The Avalanche prac­tised Fri­day morn­ing at the Bell Cen­tre and with the Cana­di­ens tak­ing the day off be­fore Sat­ur­day’s game against Colorado (7 p.m., SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Ra­dio) that meant there was a lot of me­dia there. MacKin­non didn’t try to avoid the me­dia, in­stead en­ter­ing the locker-room af­ter prac­tice with a big smile on his face. “Hey, what’s go­ing on?” he said be­fore laugh­ing and adding: “What do you guys want to talk about, eh?” MacKin­non then pro­ceeded to an­swer ev­ery ques­tion thought­fully and hon­estly for five min­utes. He ex­plained he was up­set with Bed­nar’s de­ci­sion to wait so long to pull goalie Se­myon Var­lamov for an ex­tra at­tacker be­fore Mikko Ran­ta­nen scored with 38 sec­onds left to cut the Flames’ lead to 4-3. The Flames then got an empty-net goal by Matthew Tkachuk with 10 sec­onds left to wrap things up. “That’s un­ac­cept­able on my part,” MacKin­non said about his ac­tions. “I can’t be do­ing that stuff. Just frus­trat­ing ... I think we’ve lost eight of nine (games). I think Tkachuk just scored an empty-net­ter … I was just re­ally frus­trated. But, I mean, I love play­ing for Bedsy … ev­ery­one loves play­ing for Bedsy in here. That’s on me and I take re­spon­si­bil­ity for it. “I just thought the goalie should have been pulled and he didn’t,” added MacKin­non, who has 26-40-66 to­tals in 44 games. “That’s all it was. It was just stupid. I was just tak­ing my frus­tra­tions out on that. Just about the goalie be­ing pulled. That’s it . ... We spoke af­ter the game. Bedsy’s the least sen­si­tive guy ever, so it’s all good. I don’t know if you al­ready talked to him, but he’s fine. I’m ob­vi­ously fine.” Bed­nar spoke with the me­dia af­ter MacKin­non. “To me, it didn’t bother me at all,” the coach said. “That’s what I love about Nathan and about cer­tain guys on our team is the fire and pas­sion and emo­tion that they play with and that they have. Be­cause that’s what you need in this game. I think it’s an im­por­tant part of the game and that’s what makes him so good, so I never want to curb that. My job as a coach is just to make sure that we’re driv­ing that emo­tion and that pas­sion and that en­ergy into the right places and fo­cus­ing it on the right place and we’re do­ing it in a pos­i­tive way and that will lead to win­ning. To me, I for­got about it by the time we went down the tun­nel. I thought we should chat about it and we did and we’re good.” As a team, the Avalanche haven’t been very good re­cently, go­ing 1-6-2 in their last nine games. MacKin­non said the re­cent slump also played a role in his blow-up on the bench. “I think ev­ery­one was frus­trated,” he said. “I was just the only one that did that. So no ex­cuses. Ev­ery­one wants to win in here, ev­ery­one’s com­pet­i­tive. Ev­ery­body wants to win as bad as I do. But they ob­vi­ously chan­nelled it bet­ter than I did. I def­i­nitely can’t be los­ing my tem­per and treat­ing the coach like that. “I mean, ar­gu­ments hap­pen, it’s the NHL. Guys are com­pet­i­tive. We want to win around here and, ob­vi­ously, we haven’t been do­ing that lately. But it’s just un­for­tu­nate it got caught on cam­era. I saw it af­ter the Calgary game. I was pretty rat­tled in my ho­tel room, just look­ing like an id­iot, scream­ing. That can’t hap­pen again, so I’ll be bet­ter from it.” What’s his re­la­tion­ship with Bed­nar like now? “It’s great,” MacKin­non said. “We’re re­ally close. I think that’s part of the rea­son why I feel like I can — not do that — but I can ex­press my opin­ions in a more calm way and more re­spect­ful way. He’s a player’s coach. Bedsy’s a very per­son­able guy and ev­ery­one loves play­ing for him and I re­ally en­joy play­ing for him. “It’s all good. It was all good 20 min­utes af­ter the game. Like I said, it’s on me. It’s just about the goalie be­ing pulled. It’s just funny that I looked like a mad­man. But I feel bad for it, for sure.” MacKin­non should feel very good about the way he han­dled him­self Fri­day while put­ting an end to the story. Hope­fully some other NHL teams were tak­ing notes.

DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Avalanche cen­tre Nathan MacKin­non deftly han­dled the con­tro­versy he started by lash­ing out at head coach Jared Bed­nar dur­ing a game this week. “That’s un­ac­cept­able on my part,” he said af­ter prac­tice Fri­day at Bell Cen­tre.

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