Avalanche coach Jared Bednar wants to do like Jon Cooper.
Bednar wants to go from the proverbial pressure cooker to a multiple Stanley Cup champion.
In 2018-19, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s regular-season champion before getting swept in the first round of the playoffs. Cooper, a sixth-year head coach at the time, was retained while many wanted him fired.
Cooper then led Tampa Bay to back-to-back championships.
“I’ve talked to Jon Cooper at length,” said Bednar, who is beginning his sixth season with the Avs.
In other words, Bednar has picked Cooper’s brain about how to get a championship-caliber team over the hump. He’s tried to understand what he could have done better to beat San Jose in Game 7 in 2019, beat Dallas in Game 7 in 2020 and avoid an 0-4 meltdown in June to lose to Vegas in six games.
Colorado, the 2021 President’s Trophy winner, has failed to get out of the second round of the playoffs for three consecutive years. And if it happens again — or the team falls apart in the regular season — Bednar realizes he will likely lose his job.
“No one’s going to put more pressure on me than I do, because I see how committed our guys are, how bad they want it,” he said from training camp.
The Avalanche is again the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup, followed by Tampa Bay, Vegas, Boston and Toronto. The pressure is indeed on Bednar and his staff to get the talented and playoff-experienced roster playing its best when it counts the most.
“I felt it the first time we lost in the second round,” Bednar said of pressure. “I’m a realist. I like to look at things as objectively as I can. We did a heck of a job getting into the second-round Game 7 that year we lost to San Jose. Two years ago we lost to Dallas — I loved our team. I think we ran into some injury issues in that second round that really hurt us — two goalies, Landy, EJ, guys we rely heavily on, and we lost.”
And what happened this past June?
“There’s absolutely no excuses,” Bednar said. “I wasn’t making excuses after the time we lost to San Jose. I wasn’t making them after Dallas. It just is what it is. One of my friends said, ‘That’s just the hockey gods, seeing how bad you want it.’ And I believe that. Nothing comes easy.”
If you can learn from it and plan accordingly. Bednar will do just. Based on the circumstances, he’s the right person to bring the Stanley Cup back to Colorado.
“I’m excited about this season as I’ve been for all the others, just because you know we’re dug in now as a group. We’ve got our core group,” Bednar said. “There’s an excitement with every new season, especially when you have a team that you feel can contend and we’ve felt that way for a couple of years now.
“We’ve been improving in the regular season. We got to get over the hump in the playoffs. But it’s the motivation for myself, for the group. It’s making us hungrier, 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 do to make that happen. I’m excited to still be here and I’m proud to be part of this team and proud of what we’ve accomplished to this point. We certainly have more to accomplish.”
For Avalanche forward Tyson Jost, some of Bednar’s video sessions during training camp have ignited fires beneath him and his teammates. The clips about what went wrong against Vegas are depressing but compelling.
“I don’t think you ever really get over it,” Jost said of blowing a 2-0 series lead and losing the final four games. “It definitely still stings when you’re watching video and doing meetings and stuff like that, and clips from those games come up and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It (stinks) for sure.
“It’s something that sticks with you throughout the whole summer and it definitely fuels you when you’re training.”
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