Chambers: Jared Bednar isn’t to blame. Avalanche players blew it with turnovers – The Denver Post

A hockey coach can only do so much. He can’t prevent his players from making costly turnovers on basic plays.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar is not to blame for the club’s 0-4 exit and third consecutive failure to advance past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s not to blame for the Vegas Golden Knights becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to defeat the No. 1 overall seed in a series after losing the first two games.

Blame it on the guys who made the turnovers that directly led to Vegas goals in Games 5 and 6. Make no mistake, Vegas crept inside the Avs’ heads late in Game 2 — a game the Knights deserved to win — and stayed there through much of Game 4.

But Bednar and his staff helped the players regain their poise, and the Avs played well enough to win Games 5 and 6 if it weren’t for a combination of sloppy turnovers and Vegas’ lethal transition game.

The Knights deserve credit for storming back from an 0-2 series deficit and dominating Games 3 and 4 at highly electric T-Mobile Arena.

The Avs blew the series, not even forcing a Game 7, and fans might want Bednar gone. My guess is general manager Joe Sakic is not going to do it. He has too much invested in this club, including Bednar and his staff, and he is not going to blow it up as a knee-jerk reaction to losing four consecutive games for the first time all season.

Sakic is far more likely to move on from unrestricted free agents Gabe Landeskog and Philipp Grubauer than fire Bednar. Sakic has publicly said the Avs must tighten their belt for the 2021-22 season to afford one-of-a-kind star defenseman Cale Makar as well as fellow restricted free agents Tyson Jost, a forward, and defenseman Conor Timmins, plus prepare to extend Nathan MacKinnon after his team-friendly $6.3 million cap hit ends after 2022-23.

At the time he said that, Sakic mentioned making room for Landeskog and Grubauer, too. Perhaps that’s still the plan.

But Sakic is not going to waste non-cap money by doubling up on head-coaching salaries. Bednar is under contract through next season and ownership probably sees this situation just like me, that Bednar deserves to see it through.

Bednar is 184-149-39 in five seasons with the Avs, including 166-93-35 after that horrific first season of 2016-17 in which he inherited the discombobulated old-and-slow roster Sakic and Patrick Roy put together with no previous front-office experience. Since then, Sakic and assistant general managers Chris MacFarland and Craig Billington have done an exceptional job in the draft, free agency and trades, and Bednar has done an excellent job of coaching what he has been given.

Bednar is 24-19 in the playoffs with the Avs, including 22-15 over the last three years. The window to win is still open.

Sakic and his staff are partners with Bednar and, while almost every NHL head coach is eventually fired or not re-signed, that time has not arrived for Bednar.

Look at coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning. A year after winning the 2019 Presidents’ Trophy and getting swept by the No. 8 seed Columbus Blue Jackets, the Bolts stayed with Cooper and they won the Stanley Cup in 2020.

As Wayne Gretzky once said, you have to lose before you can win. I thought the Avs’ two previous second-round series losses (both in Game 7) were enough to help push Colorado over the top this year.

I was wrong. But it wasn’t all Bednar’s fault and he should be given a chance to coach another year.

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