Avs bring in Calder Cup champ Bednar to refuel squad for ’16-17
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Patrick Roy was a players’ coach, a man virtually everyone would run through a wall for.
Roy may not be on the Christmas-card list of former Colorado Avalanche forwards P.A. Parenteau and Daniel Briere, among others, but it appears that Colorado’s returning cast will miss the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie who abruptly ended his three-year stint behind the Avs’ bench Aug. 11.
“I enjoyed playing for Patty,” Avs forward Blake Comeau said Sept. 7 before teeing off at the 19th Joe Sakic Celebrity Classic at Sanctuary Golf Course. “I thought he was fair, held everybody accountable and to a high standard.”
Comeau played in Sakic’s tournament along with Avalanche teammates Jarome Iginla, Francois Beauchemin and Cody McLeod. Roy’s successor, Jared Bednar — who was hired Aug. 25 and introduced to Denver media Aug. 31 — did not participate. His first NHL training camp as a player or coach begins next week with the start of the Sept. 15 rookie camp. The veterans report Sept. 22.
“I enjoyed my time to get to know Patty and obviously he’s a very successful and passionate guy — and a very interesting guy to play for,” Iginla said. “I wish him well.”
Beauchemin said about Roy: “He obviously has his reasons and you have to respect his decision. Everybody thinks it’s weird timing, and we’re a little shocked and disappointed with his decision, but you have to respect it and move on.”
In the end, a new head coach could turn around a non-playoff team that generally returns intact. The Avs made no major trades or free-agent splashes during the summer after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
“We obviously all know we have to do something different because it wasn’t working last year,” Beauchemin said.
Said Comeau: “Jared is going to bring his own approach. He obviously has had some success with winning the Calder Cup last year. I haven’t heard much about him, but he’s a young guy. It sounds like past players have enjoyed playing for him, so I’m excited. I think everybody is excited. I think everyone is looking forward to moving forward.”
“You look at different coaching changes over time with different teams, different years, different sports, whatever it is — the coach has a big impact on the team,” Iginla added. “I don’t know what the new systems, the new styles, will be, but we’ll find out soon enough. But guys here are hungry and not happy about the last two years.”
Limiting shots against and improving offensive possession usually begins with an effective break out of the defensive zone.
The Avalanche was poor in breaking the puck out under Roy. But Bednar is confident his systems will work.
Bednar, who was a journeyman minor-league defenseman as a player, said he and former Avalanche defenseman Nolan Pratt will introduce ways to lower shots against — which typically increases offensive possession. Pratt was hired in July, before Roy’s surprise resignation, from Bednar’s staff with the Lake Erie Monsters (now Cleveland Monsters) of the American Hockey League (AHL). Bednar and Pratt worked together the last four seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ affiliate.
“Nolan and I see the game on the defensive side of things with the way we coach – we’ve been together for a long time and we see it the same way,” Bednar said at his introductory news conference. “The plan that we’re going to put in place can help elite defensemen or up-and-comers. It’s all about support and knowing what you’re trying to do with the puck before you get there under different sets of circumstances.
“That clarity, that detail, I’m hoping we can put in place will help those guys. Breaking out of your zone and exiting with possession — that’s a five-man job, that’s a community job, not one defenseman who’s going back to get the puck under duress. That’s the mentality I have.”
Photo/Michael Martin/Colorado Avalanche
— Mike Chambers