Believe it or not, Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar is the third longest tenured coach in the NHL.
Where has the time gone?
The two coaches ahead of him are Jon Cooper and Mike Sullivan. What do those two have in common?
Multiple Stanley Cup championships.
That’s what Bednar wants.
On Tuesday, the Avalanche announced they had signed Bednar to a three-year extension, locking him up through the 2026-27 season. His current contract wasn’t set to expire until after the 2023-24 season, but in the NHL, you don’t typically let the coach go into that final year if you want to keep them around.
The Avalanche wanted to keep Bednar around. Why wouldn’t they? He’s the winningest coach in franchise history, and the team has been very successful under his leadership. Five straight playoff appearances, two consecutive division titles, and the ultimate prize, a Stanley Cup championship last June.
The thought of being the third longest tenured coach still catches Bednar off guard.
“That’s crazy,” Bednar said, with a laugh, on Wednesday. “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously, that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful because there was times over my tenure that got a little hairy.”
Coaches don’t always have the longest leashes. Not just in the NHL, but in all of professional sports. Joe Sakic could have easily cut ties with Bednar after the nightmare 2016-17 season, but he stuck with him, knowing the situation his coach was put into was not ideal. That loyalty paid off for Sakic, but that wasn’t the only time Bednar felt the pressure as coach.
He mentioned the 2018-19 season, where the Avalanche squeaked into the playoffs after a wildly inconsistent regular season.
“I felt like our team was in a position to take a step forward,” Bednar said. “And we just weren’t doing it. Then we ended up going on a run and beating Calgary, so that season to me, was a step forward.”
The next season, bad luck played a role in the Avalanche losing in the second round to Dallas. They lost their top two goaltenders, Erik Johnson, Gabriel Landeskog, and others before losing to Dallas in game seven of round two. Who knows how that season ends with a little bit of injury luck.
The next season, however, ended on a sour note. No one would have been surprised if the Avalanche made some big changes, Bednar included.
“The year we lost to Vegas was heartbreaking,” Bednar said. “That’s year three where we’ve had a good team. One, we’re building. One, we get injuries. And then this one, we were healthy and ready to go, pretty much, and just didn’t play up to our capability. Looking back on that one, that would have been an easy time for management to make a change.”
But sometimes it takes losing to learn what it takes to win. Not just for the players, but the coaches as well.
“I do think, looking back, that helped drive our team last year,” he said. “I do think that helped drive our staff, our team, just to keep pushing the bar forward and getting really dialed into the details going into the playoffs last year.”
The Avalanche reached the top of the mountain last June. This season has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but there’s no place that Bednar would rather be.
“I’m glad to get it done,” Bednar said on the extension. “Whenever you can be a part of a team that in a group of players, management, staff kind of grows together, learns together, competes together to accomplish a common goal, which is obviously winning, there’s no better feeling.”
One championship isn’t enough, though. They want more. At least, that’s the plan.
“I think we’ve got a good thing going. We’re excited to continue.”