STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Sports Writer
Joe Sakic had to rush his coaching search after the abrupt resignation of Patrick Roy. He doesn’t believe the Colorado Avalanche rushed their hire.
After interviewing candidates with varying degrees of NHL coaching experience, Sakic ultimately chose Jared Bednar as the team’s new coach. Bednar spent the past 14 seasons as a minor league coach, most recently winning the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup with the Lake Erie Monsters, and the previous nine as a minor league player,.
“We knew we were in a rush situation, but I wanted to do what I thought was the best thing for the franchise,” Sakic said on a conference call Thursday. “I look at the track record and I place a lot of value in winning championships. I know Jared’s won in the (ECHL) and he just won a Calder Cup. It’s tough to win in any league and to able to win you’ve got to be doing something right.”
While Roy, who resigned as coach and vice president of hockey operations on Aug. 11, is a Hall of Fame goaltender with a firebrand personality, the 44-year-old Bednar is a “demanding” coach whom Sakic said players respect and play for. He paid his dues as a journeyman minor league defenseman in his playing days and did the same in coaching before Roy’s departure made for a surprise NHL opening.
Bednar coached five different minor league teams, including the South Carolina Stingrays that he led to the ECHL’s Kelly Cup in 2009. He doesn’t see his lack of NHL head coaching experience as a weakness, nor his process of getting there.
“It hasn’t been an overnight thing. It’s taken some time and I think that all my stops along the way have helped prepare me for this,” said Bednar, who signed a three-year contract. “I’ve never been trying to get on a fast track to get to the NHL. I feel like the goal is to do a good job where you are and be consistent and hone your craft and that’s what I’ve been working on over the years.”
Bednar got the nod from Sakic over Washington Capitals assistant Lane Lambert, Chicago Blackhawks assistant and former Florida Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen and others. Sakic’s playing experience winning two Stanley Cups under Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley helped him decide that NHL head coaching experience wasn’t a must.
Based on the Avalanche’s talent up front with centers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog, Sakic wanted someone who could coach in the fast, modern NHL and work with young players. Bednar showed that in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, impressing John Tortorella early in his tenure with the big club.
Tortorella told me “I don’t know who (Bednar) is, but every time he sends me a guy, he’s ready to play,” Blue Jackets assistant GM Bill Zito said in a phone interview. “I remembered it when he said it and I never forgot it.”
Sakic and Bednar thanked the Blue Jackets for being open to the hiring process in August, long after most vacancies are filled. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said he’s happy for Bednar and while the timing may not be ideal the team is always supportive of people in the organization moving forward in their careers.
“You can be nothing but thrilled for the guy to see him get such a great opportunity,” Zito said. “To be able to put it all together and then make the next step, people exaggerate a little too much these days, but in this instance it truly is deserved.”