Last Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche agreed to a three-year contract extension through the 2026-27 season with head coach Jared Bednar. It will begin after his current deal expires next season.

“Whenever you can be part of a group of players, management, (and) staff (which) grows together, learns together, (and) competes together to accomplish a common goal – which is obviously winning – there’s no better feeling,” said Bednar.

“I love my job here and the players that I work with. We got a good thing going, and we’re excited to continue it.”

He’s done more than lead Colorado to the 2022 Stanley Cup. Earlier this year, he became the winningest coach in franchise history when he hit 266 wins after Colorado’s win over the Washington Capitals on January 24h.

The Avalanche are currently embroiled in a tight race for the Central Division title. He is the first Avalanche coach to bring Colorado to five straight appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After guiding the team to two consecutive division titles, he is currently in pursuit of a third.

Bednar led last year’s Avalanche to their most successful regular and postseason record in franchise history with an impressive 16-4 path to the Stanley Cup.  He’s no stranger to success. Unlike anyone before him, he’s won titles in three professional leagues: a Calder Cup, Kelly Cup, and Stanley Cup.

In his seventh season behind the bench, he is the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan – two coaches who’ve had their hand in a dynasty before.

He’s excited to remain in Denver.

“I love it. It’s great, especially because we love Colorado and Denver itself,” he said. “The people have treated us so well here that we obviously wanted to stay. To be able to sort of have the luxury of staying in the same place for as long as we have, and then continuing on with that, it’s a luxury that lots of coaches/players don’t get. You have to find the right situation, the right fit, it’s got to be a mutual agreement, and for us it was and we couldn’t be happier.”

His current success in Denver is a far cry from his inaugural season. The mythic 48-point season is a pivotal part of Avalanche lore. Just months before training camp, the group was abandoned and in came Jared Bednar for his first NHL stint. The Avs finished dead last during the 2016-17 season.

“It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful, because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But, they didn’t. I’m certainly grateful for that.”

In his second season, he was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award after the Avs punched their ticket to the playoffs following a league-worst season the year before.

Just a few turns of the calendar later, Bednar would lead the Avs to a Presidents’ Trophy during the 2020-21 season.  They went from worst to first in four seasons.

He has trended upward each year he’s been in Colorado, but it hasn’t been without its low moments. “I put the most pressure on myself,” he said. “Our team puts pressure on ourselves internally at all times to try and be at our best. It’s good, it helps keep you sharp.”

Bednar reflected on his experience and made a point to call out moments he felt extra pressure. 

“There was that run the year we played Calgary where we had to go on the run at the end of the year. It would have been the year after we lost to Nashville, the second time getting into the playoffs, and we had a bad third quarter to the season,” he said. “Our team was in a position to take a step forward, and we just weren’t doing it. Then we ended up going on the run and beating Calgary. So that season was a step forward and a successful season even though there was some heartbreak losing to San Jose, that was one.”

The most influential moment of pressure to date came about the season before last.  “I’d say the biggest one (was) the next year’s playoffs,” he started. “Kind of got some bad luck, in my opinion. Still, even looking back on it, we were in a position to advance to the conference finals. (We) lost to Dallas, losing the goaltenders, EJ, Landy – like we just kind of got beat up there a little bit and couldn’t sustain it.”

“But, the year we lost to Vegas was heartbreaking because that’s year three where we’ve had a good team: one (of those years leading up to it) we were building, one we get injuries, and then this one: we were healthy and ready to go and just didn’t play up to our capabilities.”

From the heartbreak of the Vegas series, the hunger grew. “Looking back on that one, that would have been an easy time for management to make a change. But they stuck with us. Looking back on it, that helped drive our team last year. I do think that helped drive our staff (and) our team just to keep pushing.”

Management did not move on from Bednar, instead, they re-upped his contract early last season: a two-year extension on November 19, 2021. Little did they know, their display of trust would spark a Cup run fans would not soon forget.

Last year, he became the first Avalanche coach to serve as a head coach at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game.

His time in Colorado has changed him as a coach. “A lot of growth,” he said of the changes. “I think it’s the same with players and coaches: you’re always kind of striving to get better, you get more comfortable with what you’re doing, and then you try to take the next step. It’s an ongoing process and familiarity with the league, the other coaches, how teams play, what works, what doesn’t – (there’s) a lot of experimentation still going on. But I think you kind of learn that there’s no sort of substitute for experience on what works and what doesn’t. Especially when you’re doing it with this same core of individuals, we all kind of have the same learning process and can remember things that have helped us, things that have hurt us, some of the good times along the way, and some of the bad times along the way. Drawing back on those experiences really helped me moving forward.”

Jared Bednar has utilized his experience as a player, nine seasons of professional hockey, to relate to his players. Connecting with last year’s Avalanche group and their core is an essential part of maximizing Colorado’s window. After all, there’s tremendous talent here: names like Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen spring to mind. He’s excited to continue to have a hand in the success of this organization.

“That’s what excites me the most: the core group of players that we have here, all of them really. You’ve seen when players come in and out of here, they all kind of follow our leadership in our room – Landy, MacK, Mikko, Cale, Toews – guys that are elite competitors along with their skill set,” he explained.

“We’ve got this great core to build around. We mix and match and get new players here and there, but that core drives our team, and that core that is going to be together for a while. To be part of that group and help try and set the discipline factor for the team and give us a good plan and get us prepared, I like our chances on a nightly basis. We’re sort of showing that now as we get more competitive and more determined, and as the season goes on, we’re having more success with a lineup that’s still beat up and missing key players.”

In his thirteenth season with the Avs veteran defenseman, Erik Johnson, shared his excitement over the extension news.

“Super well deserved,” he said. “When I saw it, I was super happy for him. He puts in a lot of long hours. We wouldn’t have won the Cup without him. I was really proud and happy for him because he deserves it. Happy to see he’s going to be around for a while.”

When Bednar reached his 266th win earlier this season, he couldn’t wait to turn the page and redirect the attention away from himself. He wanted to keep the focus locked on the team. When he opened the media availability following the news of his extension, he displayed a similar degree of altruism.

“I’m glad to get it done,” he laughed. “I’m excited to be back and stay on for a little bit (longer).”

“(I love) coming to work with the players,” he added later. “You can set individual goals for yourself and things you want to accomplish in life, but when you’re able to have goals with a great group of people around you, and friends, and teammates, and competitors, and you’re able to set goals as a group and then accomplish those: there is no better feeling than that. I like the leadership group. We have the players we have: they’re very receptive and coachable and hungry to win and compete to the highest level they possibly can.”

Bednar has co-signed many franchise records in his time here. To aspire for more: another division title, another Stanley Cup – it’s in his DNA. It has been since he began coaching and rose through the ranks league by league. Heartbreak and loss doesn’t deter him. It pushes him. It pushes most, but amidst loss, he finds results. With the trust of the front office behind him and a young core on the brink of smashing their own records, the job’s not done. The bar is raised higher.