Rather than have him enter next season with the pressure of performing in his final season under contract, the Colorado Avalanche have extended Jared Bednar’s deal for another year. That means the head coach, who originally signed a three-year deal in 2016, is now under contract through the 2019-20 season.
Bednar and the Avalanche have been one of the best stories of the year, after posting a historically bad season in 2016-17. The then-rookie head coach led Colorado to a 22-56-4 season and was the target of ridicule for much of the offseason. While GM Joe Sakic dealt with the ongoing Matt Duchene trade request distraction, Bednar was brought back for another chance with the young group. After Duchene was dealt, something in the Avalanche clicked and they rolled all the way to a postseason berth.
Though they were eliminated in the first round by the Nashville Predators, many see this as a hugely successful season for the Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon is a legitimate candidate for the Hart Trophy as league MVP after scoring 97 points in just 74 games, and 21-year old Mikko Rantanen exploded for 84 points of his own. The team’s incredibly fast-paced attack would relentlessly grind down opponent’s defenses, and despite a relatively shallow roster—especially on defense—the Avalanche would finish 10th in goals for.
Today at the season-ending press conference, Sakic admitted that he likely will try to get even younger next season, not bring in a group of veterans to help MacKinnon and company compete next season. In a league that is skewing younger and younger each season, that seems like a sound strategy from a GM who was criticized endlessly last offseason.
The Avalanche do have several young prospects close to providing some NHL impact, though Cale Makar—perhaps the best of the bunch—will return to college next season. Bednar will be tasked with implementing them into the roster, without disrupting the chemistry he built this season.