It's the best time of year!
This season’s voting for the Jack Adams Award – given to the coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success” – is expected to be extremely close. There are six candidates this year that stand above the rest; here is why each of them deserves to win the Coach of the Year award. (The award is voted by the NHL Broadcasters Association.)
Guy Boucher, TB
First-year coaches that help their team have a bounce-back season seemingly take precedence over others in the Jack Adams race. In fact, three of the last four coaches to the win the award took their team back to the playoffs in the first season behind the bench. Could Guy Boucher make it four of five?
Not many people picked Tampa Bay to compete for the Southeast Division this year, but Boucher’s gang has done just that. Although he inherited a team with talent, they hadn’t made the playoffs in each of the last three years. Given that this is his first head coaching gig in the NHL, I’d be surprised if the fiery Boucher did not receive an invitation to Las Vegas this summer.
Bruce Boudreau, WSH
By definition of the award, should Bruce Boudreau be considered a favorite? The 2008 Jack Adams recipient tweaked the way the Capitals played, and it has paid off. Despite an ugly eight-game skid in December, this team now knows how to win grind-it-out, low-scoring contests instead of out-scoring their opponents.
The Presidents’ Trophy winners from a year ago fought through a lot of adversity prior to the All-Star Game, but still find themselves in a position to claim the top seed in the conference. Add on to the fact that Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom have been affected by injury, along with Alex Ovechkin having a career-worst season production-wise, and Boudreau should definitely be in this conversation.
Dan Bylsma, PIT
If Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma is not a finalist for the Jack Adams, the voters will have failed in my opinion. Yes, the Pens were expected to be a Cup contender. But like Washington, the road to get where they are today has featured road blocks and detours. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have not played for much of the second half, on top of a slew of other key injuries (Brooks Orpik, Chris Kunitz, etc.).
In mid-February, Bylsma’s club had guys like Brett Sterling, Chris Conner and Dustin Jeffrey on the top line; heck, half of the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins were playing for Pittsburgh at one point. Somehow, Bylsma has kept his Penguins in contention and residing in fourth place despite many second-half obstacles.
Jacques Lemaire, NJ
The wily replacement coach for the Devils is the wild card in this conversation. Will voters give Lemaire the nod despite his team missing the playoffs? After Lemaire came out of retirement and took over for John MacLean (on a team sitting in last place), the trap was re-inserted into the Devils’ game plan. Under the familiar system, Lemaire’s Devils went on a magical second half run – which included a 23-4-2 stretch – that saw them threaten for a playoff berth.
Now that they have faded, does it change the view of the voters? Just three weeks ago, when it seemed that a miracle comeback could be possible, Lemaire was considered the guy to beat here. Remember: No coach has ever won the award without making the playoffs.
Barry Trotz, NSH
Let’s get this out of the way – Nashville’s Barry Trotz should be a Jack Adams nominee every year. But since he essentially does a similar coaching job year in and year out, other coaches tend to get more recognition on a year-to-year basis.
This season has been one of Trotz’s best coaching jobs. According to this report two weeks ago, the Preds have the most man-games lost to injury out of the playoff teams. Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter missed time in the first half, while notable off-season acquisition Matthew Lombardi played in two games, among others. That being said, Nashville is still contending for home-ice in the first round thanks to an impressive late-season surge. Trotz has once again pushed the right buttons at the right time.
Alain Vigneault, VAN
Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault won this award back in 2007, and he has another chance at winning it this season. Although the Canucks were favored by many to be the best in the Western Conference, they have far and away been the top team in the league from start to finish.
The Canucks currently have a 10-point lead on the Presidents’ Trophy race, which would be the widest margin between first and second since the 2005/06 Red Wings. Also, key parts of the defense have gone down to injury all year, only to see the team still lead the league in goals allowed. Vancouver is also ranked first on the power play and penalty kill. This team is the complete package, and Vigneault will get some consideration because of that.
How I would rank them if the season ended today…
1. Dan Bylsma
2. Guy Boucher
3. Bruce Boudreau
4. Barry Trotz
5. Jacques Lemaire
6. Alain Vigneault
It is so close between 1 and 6, that any three of these coaches could be nominated and you could deem it fair. Who gets your vote?
Photo credit: Getty Images
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