The Avalanche Friday knew their second-round opponent — the St. Louis Blues — when they practiced at the Family Sports Center.
But not when the series would begin.
The Avs were in the dark on that too.
“Now that we know our opponent, we’re going to get involved as coaches,” coach Jared Bednar said after practice. “Our guys will have the day off (Saturday). We’ve had two good days of practice, and that will give us time to do our prep work. We’ll start meeting on Sunday and then we’ll get on the ice (for Sunday training) with a clear focus on what we want to do.
Bednar called the Blues, who eliminated the Wild with a Game 6 win on Thursday night, a “tough test.”
He continued: “They are deep, extremely deep. The numbers show it. 109 points, finished the year 14-2-1. [Nine] 20 goalscorers, best special teams in the league. Everything makes it a tough test.
For Bednar, the game is a reminder of the only speed bump in his progress as a coach from the ECHL, to the AHL, to the NHL.
He was head coach of the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, for two seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12, compiling a record of 81-63-12.
Then Blues GM Doug Armstrong decided not to renew his contract.
On Friday, I asked Bednar if he buried the ax with Armstrong, or if there was a hatchet to bury.
“There’s not a hatchet for me, really,” he said. “I got along well with those guys when I was there, and since then too.”
Bednar obviously didn’t want to get into the thick of it – again.
In 2016, after the Avalanche hired him, Bednar told me about Armstrong’s decision: “It was disappointing. I put a lot into it and I felt it was my chance. I am a competitive person. I want to win and we didn’t, but I think our staff and I invested a lot in this team and I felt we did everything we could with the group we had. … I think deep down I was a little worried that this was my chance as the head coach of the American League. But I am convinced that everything happens for a reason.
The Columbus Blue Jackets then hired him as a second assistant for their AHL franchise, the Springfield Falcons. After two seasons, Falcons head coach Brad Larsen—a former Colorado winger—switched to the Blue Jackets staff, and Bednar inherited the head coaching position.
(Larsen is now the head coach of the Blue Jackets.)
The Blue Jackets’ affiliation moved 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 resigned on August 11, 2016, the Avalanche interviewed Bednar and signed him two weeks later.
Yes, everything was for the best and it seems that the only thing that Bednar won’t to be carried away in this series against the Blues is a grudge.
terry frei ([email protected], @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named state sportswriter of the year seven times in a vote by his peers – four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. Her 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”, “Mars 1939: Before the Madness”, and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming de l ‘age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save by Roy”, long served as vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and covered the Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL in general. His website is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available on www.terryfrei.com/bio.html
His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here