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Woody Paige: Avalanche take chance on head coach to replace Patrick Roy

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Posted at 1:24 PM, Aug 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-26 15:25:35-04

The name “Jared Bednar” doesn’t have quite the panache in the National Hockey League or Colorado as the name “Patrick Roy.”

Perhaps because Bednar never played or coached in the NHL, and never played or coached on any level in Colorado.

Possibly because most people in Denver never had heard the name Jared Bednar until the past few days.

Deal with it.

Jared Bednar is the Avalanche’s newest, and seventh, head coach.

Who?

There was an Andy Bednar who pitched for the Pirates in the 1930s and a Franz Bednar, who competed in the Olympics for Austria as a bobsledder, and, I think, a Captain Bedmar, the police officer in the novel “The Man With The Golden Arm.”

This Bednar is a native of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada. He’s 44, 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. He was a career minor league defenseman.

“Well-traveled” would be an apt description of his playing career in Saskatoon, Spokane, West Virginia, South Carolina, Rochester, Prince Albert (the town, not the pipe tobacco or the royal), Grand Rapids and Medicine Hat.

That’s a journeyman.

Then he became an assistant and/or a head coach in North Charleston, Abbotshead, Peoria, Springfield and for the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland.

I imagine he rented, not bought.

And, now, introducing the Avs’ coach, with a three-year contract. He might, though, want to continue renting for a while.

Interestingly, none of the six previous head coaches of the Avalanche, since the franchise moved from Quebec City in 1995, had been head coaches in the NHL before getting this job. The first two — Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley — coached the Avalanche to Stanley Cup championships.

Joel Quenneville went on to coach Stanley Cup championships — after he left the Avalanche.

With the hiring of Bedmar, Joe Sakic, the Avs’ executive VP, was channeling his inner Pierre LaCroix, the former (and highly-successful) general manager here. LaCroix loved to take chances on guys who had not been head coaches in the NFL. Crawford and Hartley had been effective minor-league coaches. Tony Granato barely had retired and become an assistant with the Avs when LaCroix named to him to take over for the fired Hartley, who at one time had worked in a windshield factory.

Sakic could have decided on a safe — and probably popular — choice in Kevin Dineen, who had played at the University of Denver, was a long-time and productive NHL player, became the head coach of the Florida Panthers and is serving as Quenneville’s top assistant with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Dineen would have been my pick.

Instead, after Roy abruptly quit as head coach, Sakic seemed more intent on hiring a minor-league coach to the major-league post.

Sakic feels as if he got the best of the bunch. Bednar coached up the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League to the Calder Cup last season. The Monsters finished second in their division with a 43-22-6-5 record, then won 15 of 17 postseason games to earn the title.

“After profiling the type of coach I wanted for our team and going through an interview process with several good candidates, I believe that Jared Bednar is the best person to lead this team behind the bench,” Sakic said Thursday.

Well, we shall find out in short order. The Avalanche players report for camp in two weeks.

Bednar promises an up-tempo offense and aggressive defense. Of course he would.

He does inherit an exceptional group of young forwards, and he obviously has worked with young players. But he also takes over a spotty defense and inconsistent goal-tending (which should have been Roy’s strength).

I don’t know how Bednar will do, but the Avalanche hasn’t made the playoffs in two seasons. So if he does get them to the postseason again, where they lived and belonged throughout Sakic’s own playing career, that will be an upgrade this season. If not, we’ll all question the selection. And most people won’t be paying much attention to the Avs, anyway, until after the end of the Broncos season. The Avs’ fanatics are fickle. They will show up if the Avs show up good. They will turn on Bednar quickly if the Avalanche starts slow.

Bednar has been all over the map in two countries. It as if he were chasing Pokemon. He’s actually been chasing an opportunity in the NHL.

But Colorado is not West Virginia or South Carolina.

Jared Bednar has to make a name for himself here. Patrick Roy is a big name to follow. 

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