The list of coaches that have reached the pinnacle of the NHL, AHL and ECHL includes just one name.

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar.

Always popular amongst his players, Bednar last year led the Avs to one of the more dominating start-to-finish seasons the NHL has seen in recent memory. Colorado won 56 regular season games, finishing first in the Western Conference and second overall in the league, before a whopping 16-4 playoff record on its way to its third Stanley Cup championship.

The Avalanche swept two series and never trailed in any of them. To top it off, Bednar went head-to-head with two-time defending Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning led by star coach Jon Cooper in the Stanley Cup final. Given the Avs’ successful and entertaining Stanley Cup run, it was an easy decision to name Bednar the Mile High Sports Professional Coach of the Year.

Is it an honor worthy of consideration? Of course. Just ask the Avs – most notably veteran Andrew Cogliano – who has played for a handful of coaches throughout his 16-year career. Cogliano was acquired at the trade deadline in March and was instantly taken aback by Bednar’s coaching style and demeanor behind the bench.

“He’s been the best coach I’ve had in my 16 years and just does a very, very good job,” Cogliano said. “It’s his personality. He’s very calm, very composed. And I think he does a really good job of handling the room and makes it easy to play.”

A native of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Bednar has led the Avalanche as head coach since August 2016. His first season was forgettable in many ways, mostly because he was handed the reigns to a young team just weeks before training camp after the sudden resignation of former coach Patrick Roy.

Bednar and the Avs won just 22 games that season. But Joe Sakic and the rest of Colorado’s management team stuck by their coach. The leadership group in the dressing room also wanted another chance with him.

And the team hasn’t missed the playoffs since.

“He’s an easygoing guy a great guy,” superstar Nathan MacKinnon said of Bednar. MacKinnon is one of four players, joining Erik Johnson, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, that has been with the Avs throughout Bednar’s entire tenure as coach. “He gets our opinion and he trusts us. Gives us a lot of feedback. He’s overall just a great, smart guy.”

Since 2017-18, the Avalanche have won the fourth most games in the NHL and produced the third-best points percentage. They trail only Tampa Bay and Boston in that regard.

Bednar promotes a run-and-gun offensive style and also fixates his defensive efforts on a strong, overwhelming forecheck. The longer you have the puck, the more likely you are to keep the puck out of your own net while also scoring goals at the other end. Colorado has scored the fourth most goals in that same stretch and given up the fourth fewest.

“He does a good of finding the right line combinations,” newcomer Evan Rodrigues said. “We’re scoring a lot of goals and finding that chemistry so whatever he does always seems to work.”

Bednar is the NHL’s third-longest tenured coach. The two that were hired before him are Cooper and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. Both have since won two Stanley Cups.

The Avalanche entered the 2022-23 season with a 240-168-46 record under Bednar’s tutelage. One-third of those regulation losses (56) came in Bednar’s first year. Through five consecutive playoff appearances, Bednar has led the Avs to a 40-22 record, which includes seven series victories and three sweeps.

The only team with more playoff wins since 2017-18 is the Lightning (59).

Bednar’s coaching career has been a great example of starting from the bottom and earning every promotion along the way. You could argue no coach, outside of perhaps Cooper, has worked his way up quite like Bednar. He is also just one of 12 of the current 32 NHL coaches to have never suited up as an NHL player.

Bednar began his coaching career 20 years prior to his Stanley Cup championship in 2022. He retired as a player from the ECHL and joined the South Carolina Stingrays as an assistant coach – a team he previously played for. Following a five-year stint as their assistant, he was promoted to head coaching duties. In his first year at the helm, Bednar and the Stingrays lost in the finals before winning the Kelly Cup 12 months later.

Following his ECHL championship, he stepped down to accept a job as an assistant coach for the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat. It was an obvious decision to build up to the next league.

That lasted just a year before he once again took a head coaching job, joining the Peoria Rivermen for two seasons.

Bednar was then hired by the Columbus Blue Jackets to be an assistant coach for their AHL team. He eventually became the head coach, leading the Cleveland Monsters to a championship in 2015-16 following a dominating 15-2 run in the postseason.

That was when the Avalanche came calling. Unlike his stints in the ECHL and AHL, Bednar did not serve as an assistant coach in the NHL. But the move was very much deserved for someone like him.

During his time in the Columbus organization, Bednar worked with current Avs general manager Chris MacFarland. The newly-promoted GM served as an assistant GM in Columbus for eight seasons, the last two of which were spent primarily running the Cleveland Monsters.

MacFarland and Bednar were together in Cleveland as GM and coach for one season. They now hold the same titles in the NHL this year as the defending Stanley Cup champions.

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