The Avalanche Friday knew their second-round opponent — the St. Louis Blues — as they practiced at Family Sports Center.
But not when the series would start.
The Avs were in the dark on that, too.
“Now that we know our opponent, we’ll be digging in as coaches,” coach Jared Bednar said after practice, “Our guys will be getting the day off (Saturday). We had two good days of practice, and this will give us time to get our preparation work done. We’ll start meeting Sunday and then we’ll hit the ice (for Sunday practice) with a clear focus on what we want to do.”
Bednar characterized the Blues, who eliminated the Wild with a Game 6 victory Thursday night, as “a tough test.”
He continued, “They’re deep, extremely deep. The numbers show it. 109 points, finished the year 14-2-1. [Nine] 20-goal scorers, top special teams in the league. Everything makes it a tough test.”
For Bednar, the matchup is a reminder of the one speed bump in his coaching progression from the ECHL, to AHL, to NHL.
He was head coach of the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, for two seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12, compiling an 81-63-12 record.
Then Blues GM Doug Armstrong decided not to renew his contract.
On Friday, I asked Bednar if he had buried the hatchet with Armstrong, or if there was a hatchet to be buried.
“There’s not a hatchet there for me, really,” he said. “I got along with those guys great when I was there, and since then as well.”
Bednar obviously didn’t want to get into it — again.
In 2016, after the Avalanche hired him, Bednar told me of Armstrong’s decision: “It was disappointing. I’d put a lot into that and I felt like it was my chance. I’m a competitive person. I want to win and we didn’t, but I thought our staff and myself put a lot into that team and I felt we did everything we could with the group we had. … I think deep down I worried a little bit that that was my chance as an American League head coach. But I’m of the belief that everything happens for a reason.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets next hired him as the second assistant for their AHL franchise, the Springfield Falcons. After two seasons, Falcons head coach Brad Larsen — a former Colorado winger — moved up to the Blue Jackets’ staff, and Bednar inherited the head coaching position.
(Larsen now is the Blue Jackets’ head coach.)
The Blue Jackets’ affiliation switched to the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland for 2015-16, and the Monsters stormed through the AHL playoffs and won the league’s Calder Cup.
Bednar signed a new two-year contract with the Blue Jackets’ organization, but after Patrick Roy’s stunning Aug. 11, 2016 resignation, the Avalanche interviewed Bednar and hired him two weeks later.
Yes, it was all for the best and it seems that the one thing Bednar won’t be carrying into this series against the Blues is a grudge.
Terry Frei (email@example.com, @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sportswriter of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His website is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available at www.terryfrei.com/bio.html
His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here