Jared Bednar has been a head coach in Peoria, Ill., in South Carolina, and now, he can say that he will be at the helm in Springfield for the foreseeable future.
The Falcons’ new head coach has built up his resume of coaching experience to the point that Blue Jackets assistant GM Chris MacFarland and the rest of management didn’t have much of a decision to make when trying to fill the head coaching vacancy in Springfield after Brad Larsen was promoted to Columbus.
“For us, when this opportunity came up to bring Brad here (as Blue Jackets assistant coach), it was a no-brainer for us to insert Jared as the head coach,” MacFarland told BlueJackets.com. “He’s been there for two years now, he gets it, he knows our players, he loves coaching, and it just creates a seamless transition for us to make sure that our prospects are being looked after.
"We couldn’t have asked for a better guy — it just made too much sense on many fronts.”
The transition from Larsen to Bednar was a natural one for the Blue Jackets organization, and from Bednar’s perspective, he’s using this opportunity as another chance to get better as a coach while leading a group of young, talented players and trying to sustain the momentum that they have built in the past two seasons.
“As a coach, you’re always learning and every year you’re trying to improve yourself just like the players are,” Bednar told BlueJackets.com. “It’ll be a challenge (to sustain success), as it always is, but I’m looking forward to picking up where we left last year and trying to continue success.”
Being a head coach in the AHL is always a two-tiered job where the coach needs to be a developer along with a leader. Bednar said that seeing players that they coached move up in the ranks and succeed in the NHL is something that he loves to see.
On the flip side, he's tasked with getting the Falcons over the hump in the playoffs after two record-setting seasons for the franchise; Springfield has won back-to-back Northeast Division titles and been a dominant regular season club, but they're looking to make deeper runs in the Calder Cup playoffs, as well.
“It’s very rewarding as a coach if you can see guys leave the American League and contribute to the success of an NHL club,” he said. “We were fortunate two seasons ago to have some of those guys down (in Springfield) during the lockout … they were able to play significant minutes in important situations, which helped them in their transition to the NHL.
“In order to win at the NHL level, your draft picks and young players have to continue to make strides throughout the course of a season and improve their game as individuals; that’s how your team becomes better … winning and development go hand-and-hand.”
Along with his assistant coach Nolan Pratt - a former NHL defenseman who has also fit well with the Springfield organization - Bednar has earned the respect and trust from both Blue Jackets and Falcons management, which has MacFarland and his support staff convinced that the winning ways will continue and the team's developmental successes will also continue.
“Coaches at the American League level, they get the gig," MacFarland said. "They want to help these young guys reach their dream of reaching the National Hockey League. Developing players and creating a culture that’s conducive to development and doing the right things (is important), and I think that’s what Jared and Nolan have really done a good job with in the last few years in Springfield.”
This will be an important summer not only for the Blue Jackets but also for the Falcons, who expect an influx of young talent for the 2014-15 season and are likely to have several new faces in the lineup - including a change behind the bench. Luckily for Bednar, he's already settled in Springfield and has a grasp on what needs to change - though a big part of what excites him about this new opportunity is the foundation already in place.
“I’m ecstatic to be remaining in Springfield, I’m excited for the new opportunity,” Bednar said. “I’m really thankful to (the management group) for feeling confident in me to do the job. I’m certainly going to work as hard as I possibly can to make sure that we succeed.
“I can’t wait. Obviously there’s a lot of work to do this summer to get prepared, but its one of those things that we’re going to go to camp and practice and play the way that we have to in order to be successful.”