Paul Klee: Doesn't make sense, but Jared Bednar is on hot seat for Stanley Cup-favorite Avalanche
DENVER — One of the more entertaining sports things is when you’re watching sports with someone who’s never watched that sport before. There’s a video on the internet of this.
It’s four Irishmen watching American football, a Chicago Bears game with Jay Cutler. As a former Ireland resident, I can attest they know as much about American football as Americans know about European soccer, and that's not a lot.
Here’s how the video goes: “It is very violent and athletically pleasing. ... He’s got 53 rushes. So he’s good at hurrying? ... I think of myself as a heterosexual man, but those are tight pants. ... They’ve got a cage on their face. ... They are tight pants. You can see everything when he jumps.”
Likewise, good luck trying to explain the hot seat that accompanies Avalanche coach Jared Bednar this season. He’s coming off a Presidents’ Trophy, engineered one of the great turnarounds seen here, and now he’s going to field the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
That guy’s on the hot seat?
Makes as much as sense as a non-football fan watching Cutler for the first time: “He’s so sad.”
But that’s where we are with Bednar and the Avs, who open camp Thursday for another highly anticipated and sure-to-be-awesome season of action hockey. On the hot seat.
Guess we’ll call it the burden of success — while the ultimate success manages to elude you.
Hey, I don’t make the rules. The Avalanche made the rules. Joe Sakic made the rules when he said last season’s Avalanche were “as deep a team as we're going to have here." Nathan MacKinnon made the rules when, after another semifinal exit, he proclaimed, “I’m going into my ninth year next year and haven’t won (expletive).” The Avs raised their own bar, then stumbled against Vegas 4-2 in the playoffs.
“It’s another opportunity for us to achieve our goal. Last year’s playoff stings a little bit, and we’ll use that for motivation,” Bednar said Tuesday over a Zoom call.
Strange, but you could make the case there’s no hotter seat in Denver sports than Bednar’s — and he’s done the best job of any of them. Bud Black’s Rockies are in last place again, a statement that demands context, but you get it. Michael Malone’s been terrific, but the pitchforks will come for him if the Nuggets don’t make a leap. Vic Fangio is 2-0 with the Jets on Sunday.
Bednar’s in the No Context zone. The recovery from a 48-point debut season is in the rearview mirror. Earning the No. 2 seed in 2020 and No. 1 seed in 2021 only ratcheted up the pressure.
“A lot of teams around us got better,” Bednar said. “We feel we’re still right where we want to be.”
So what’s new when the Avs open the doors to fans at Family Sports on Thursday for camp? The goalie’s new. The Avs bet big on Darcy Kuemper, swapping Conor Timmins and a first-round pick for the 31-year-old goalie. They’ll pair Kuemper, the No. 1, with Pavel Francouz.
“Play the rested goalie and ride the hot goalie,” Bednar said.
The enforcer’s new. His name is Kurtis MacDermid and, at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, he’s bigger than old friend Nikita “Big Z” Zadorov. Remember your one buddy who’s always saying, “The Avs need a guy to beat up the other guy”? He wasn’t wrong. The Avs agreed with your buddy. Bednar called MacDermid “a throwback.”
Not a whole lot else is new, because the Avs are the betting favorite again to win the Stanley Cup. Oh, there’s one thing: Bednar’s in the final season of his contract. That’s new. They usually extend him before it gets to this point. He’s done a fantastic job. Now he must finish the job.
Unfair? Absolutely. Coaching wasn’t the reason so many Avs got hurt in a playoff loss to the Dallas Stars, or the reason they opened the playoffs 6-0 before losing four straight to the Golden Knights. Hot seats often don’t make sense, kind of like watching Jay Cutler play American football for the first time.
“No. 6 is the saddest man I’ve ever seen playing professional sports,” the Irishman said.
OK, now that makes sense.