Colorado Avalanche Thrive on Elimination Games

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images) /

Coach Jared Bednar deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the Avalanche turnaround.

Watching the Avalanche play I am consistently reminded how well-coached they are.

The NHL, among the major professional sports, has a less-defined role for the Head Coach.  Like basketball, the play is constant and fast-moving so set plays are less important than a more general play style.  Similar to baseball, the perception is that the coach is more manager than teacher.  A hockey coach, like a football coach must know how to handle a diverse skill set (offense, defense, special teams, goaltender) and specialized players (goalie, quarterback).

Add in a language component and NHL Head Coach is a complex, complicated profession.

Jared Bednar took over as the Colorado Avalanche head coach on the heels of the odd, sudden departure of Patrick Roy.  He got Roy’s staff and Roy’s biggest headache in star/team cancer Matt Duchene.  The Avalanche finished 30th, scored 48 points and had possibly the worst NHL season on record.

With his own staff and own style finally installed, Bednar entered his second season in Colorado with the spectre of Duchene still hanging around his neck.  Thanks to Joe Sakic and the Ottawa Senators, the Avalanche dropped the yoke of Duchene’s presence.  November 5, 2017 began the Avs Cup push, in earnest.  That’s the day they both dumped Duchene and picked up playoff heroes in Andrew Hammond and Samuel Girard.

The Avalanche came within one point of doubling last season’s point total with 95 points.  Colorado did so with top goaltender Semyon Varlamov in and out of the lineup with injury.  They spent a large part of the season without top defender Erik Johnson.  These Avs are as resilient a team as we’ve seen in Colorado.

That doesn’t just happen.  Bednar has infused his calm demeanor into this team.  They are unflappable.  Again, it is very entertaining to watch.  The Coach deserves a more in-depth look but we also want to look at: