Avalanche coach Jared Bedner wants to do like John Cooper.
Bednar wants to go from the proverbial pressure cooker to the many Stanley Cup champions.
In 2018–19, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the President’s Trophy as the NHL regular-season champions before drifting to the first round of the playoffs. Cooper, the sixth-year head coach at the time, was retained, while many wanted him fired.
Cooper led Tampa Bay to back-to-back championships.
“I’ve had a long talk with John Cooper,” said Bednar, who is beginning his sixth season with AVS.
In other words, Bednar has chosen Cooper’s mind on how to get a championship-caliber team over the hump. He’s tried to figure out what he could have done better to beat San Jose in Game 7 in 2019, beat Dallas in Game 7 in 2020, and escape a 0-4 slump in June in game six. Can lose to Vegas.
Colorado, the 2021 Presidents Trophy winners, have failed to make the second round of the playoffs for three years in a row. And if it happens again – or the team falls apart in the regular season – Bednar learns he will lose his job.
“No one will put more pressure on me than I do, because I see how committed our people are, how bad they want it,” he said from training camp.
The Avalanche is the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup again, followed by Tampa Bay, Vegas, Boston and Toronto. The pressure is really on Bednar and his staff to deliver what matters most to a talented and playoff-experienced roster at their best.
“I felt the first time we lost in the second round,” Bednar said of the pressure. “I’m a realist. I like to look at things as objectively as possible. We worked very hard to get into Game 7 of the second round, the year we lost to San Jose. Two years ago we went to Dallas. Were lost – I loved my team. I think we ran into some injury issues in that second round, which really hurt us – two goals, Landy, EJ, guys we rely on too much are, and we lost.
And what happened this past June?
“There is absolutely no excuse,” Bednar said. “I wasn’t making excuses after I lost to San Jose. I wasn’t making them up after Dallas. It’s like that. One of my friends said, ‘It’s just the hockey gods,'” Look how bad you want it.’ And I believe that. Nothing comes easy.”
If you can learn from it and plan accordingly. Bednar will do. Depending on the circumstances, he is the right person to bring the Stanley Cup back to Colorado.
“I’m as excited about this season as I have been to everyone else, just because you know we’re dug as a group now. We’ve got our core group,” Bednar said. There is an excitement with the new season, especially when you have a team that you think can compete and we have felt that way for a few years now.
“We are improving in the regular season. We have to get over the hump in the playoffs. But it is an inspiration to me, to the group. It’s making us more hungry, making us more resilient. Like anything in life, once you start it, you like to finish it. My goal here is to try to bring the Cup back to Colorado and keep trying to do whatever we can to make that happen. I am still excited to be here and I am proud to be a part of this team and proud of what we have achieved to this point. We definitely have more to do.”
For avalanche forward Tyson Jost, a few video sessions of Bednar during training camp caught fire beneath him and his teammates. The clips about what went wrong against Vegas are depressing but compelling.
“I don’t think you’ll really recover from that,” Jost said of taking a 2-0 series lead and losing the last four games. “It definitely stings even when you’re watching videos and doing meetings and stuff, and clips of those games come out and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It (stinky) for sure.
“It’s something that sticks with you all summer long and it definitely fuels you when you’re training.”