Jun 30, 2022 - Sports

How Joe Sakic, Jared Bednar and the Kroenkes built a Stanley Cup team

Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar and general manager Joe Sakic on June 14 at Ball Arena. Photo: by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar and general manager Joe Sakic on June 14 at Ball Arena. Photo: by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Five years ago, the Colorado Avalanche were the worst team in the National Hockey League.

  • They won outright only 22 times in an 82-game season.

Why it matters: On Thursday, as the Avs parade the Stanley Cup through the streets of Denver, it's worth remembering how they went from chumps to champs.

How it happened: Much of the credit goes to general manager Joe Sakic (who was captain the last time the team won the Cup in 2001), coach Jared Bednar (the first coach to win titles at three different professional hockey levels) and owners Stan and Josh Kroenke.

  • The wizards of the Avs had the vision, patience and strategy needed to build a championship team.

Of note: All five teams owned by the Kroenkes — the Avs, the Los Angeles Rams, the Nuggets, the Rapids and Mammoth — went to the playoffs in their most recent respective seasons.

  • Three of them — the Rams, Avs and Mammoth — came home with championships.

What they're saying: Sakic praises others, in particular the cornerstone players on that dismal 2016-17 team who kept coming back to the Avs.

  • "That group of players, the guys that wanted to stick around and be part of the rebuild back five years ago — the Johnsons, the Landeskogs, the MacKinnons, the Rantanens — I'm just really happy for those guys," he told The Athletic.

Zoom in: With soon-to-be superstars at its core, the Avs built patiently, asking the ownership and fans to trust them.

  • The Avs traded star Matt Duchene in 2017, but added two players who won the Cup. There were three further additions in 2019 and 2020, including goal-scorer Nazem Kadir.
  • Then this year, at the trade deadline, four acquisitions — Artturi Lehkonen, Josh Manson, Andrew Cogliano and Nico Sturm — made the Avs one of the deepest and most talented teams in NHL history.

The bottom line: "This is a great group of players," Sakic said. They "[b]elieved in each other all year and really stuck together."

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