2013-14 NHL Awards Predictions: The Jack Adams Award
Daniel Spevak is a writer for The Checking Line - Flyers Edition. This is a part of a multi-part series breaking down the potential finalists for the NHL's annual awards.
The Jack Adams Award is an accolade given to the best coach in the NHL each season.
Between rookie coaches bringing teams back to former levels of success, midseason replacements and established veterans, there’s no shortage of qualified contenders for the award.
Let’s take a look at who should be considered among all 30 NHL coaches this season and see who fits the description of the one who has “contributed the most to his team's success.”
Ken Hitchcock - St. Louis Blues
It’s hard to argue with a coach and a team that has been so consistently good all season.
The Blues currently lead the Western Conference with 111 points, which also ties them for the NHL lead with the Boston Bruins. The team has surpassed its franchise record for most wins in a season with 52 and has established itself as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
All of this seems like a possible shoe-in, but this isn’t anything new for the Blues. Last season, St. Louis finished fourth in the Western Conference. The season before, the team was tied for the least amount of losses of all teams and finished just two points shy of winning the President’s Trophy; this resulted in Hitchcock winning the Jack Adams.
Hitchcock is a very good coach and has done a great job of bringing the Blues back to the days of old when they appeared in three straight Stanley Cup finals. St. Louis is one of the best teams in the NHL, but that was expected.
Mike Babcock- Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have been one of the most injury-plagued teams in the NHL this season. Between losing stars like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk for most of the season and many others for different points of the season, Detroit has had a ton of trouble consistently performing at a high level.
But looking at the standings, Detroit sits at 86 points and leads the wildcard in the Eastern Conference, a spot many thought would not include the Red Wings this late in the season.
Babcock has taken a depleted roster and inconsistent goaltending and turned it into a possible playoff team and that speaks leaps and bounds about the type of coach he is. While certainly a close runner-up, Babcock falls just short of more qualified coaches.
Claude Julien - Boston Bruins
It’s hard to argue that the Bruins aren’t the best team in the NHL. With 111 points and one of the best records, Boston is one of the favorites for both the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup.
While none of this is new for a team that has been among the top contenders in the league for going on four straight years, look at what the team has done this season to make them stand out.
The Bruins have lost just six games in regulation since the beginning of January, a stretch of 36 games. Since the Olympic break, the Bruins have lost only two games in regulation and only five games overall.
Combine this with a 12 game winning streak and a 16 game point streak in March and the Bruins have been red hot.
The only problem with considering Julien for the Jack Adams, however, is what was mentioned above.
The Bruins have arguably the most depth of any team in the NHL and have been the most successful franchise in hockey for the past four seasons. Julien won’t be considered a favorite, but he has to at least be mentioned.
Patrick Roy - Colorado Avalanche
For the past five years, the Avalanche have been nothing more than an average team. With only one Stanley Cup playoff appearance during that time span coming in the 2009-10 season (lost to San Jose 4-2 in the quarterfinals), the franchise certainly has fallen off from the success they achieved in bunches around the early 2000s.
Now in Roy’s first year as head coach, the Avalanche are harkening back to the days when they were a force to be reckoned with when Roy was in net for the franchise.
Colorado currently sits second in the Central division with 104 points and fifth overall in the NHL standings, just seven points off President’s Trophy frontrunners Boston and St. Louis. Compare that to a second to last place finish the season before.
The 104 points is tied for the fourth highest total in the franchise’s history and Colorado’s 49 wins puts it just three shy of tying a franchise record set back in the 2000-01 season when it won its second Stanley Cup.
Roy has led the Avalanche to an outstanding season, marked by the sixth highest scoring offense and eighth best power play in the league. Since the beginning of the new calendar year, Colorado has lost two games in a row only twice.
With Roy’s presence behind the bench, young guns like Matt Duchene (23 G, 47 A, 70 pts), Gabriel Landeskog (26 G, 37 A, 63 pts) and Ryan O’Reilly (26 G, 33 A, 59 pts) have thrived and have all achieved career highs in points. Not only are the veterans on the team scoring in bunches, but Roy has helped rookie forward Nathan McKinnon (23 G, 35 A, 58 pts) live up to the hype coming out of the draft last summer.
Craig Berube - Philadelphia Flyers
Following a dreadful 0-3 start to the season that saw the Flyers get outscored 9-3, it was obvious that it was time for a change. Head coach Peter Laviolette was booted from behind the bench and assistant coach Berube took over a Flyers team desperate for a spark.
The coaching change didn’t immediately yield results as the Flyers only finished October with a 3-8 record. Usually reliable and high scoring captain Claude Giroux was held to just six points (all assists) in the month and the change looked like it did little to help a team rapidly slipping to the bottom of the league’s standings.
Fast forward to April 2. The Flyers are 35-18-8 since Nov. 8 and have been among the top point getters in the NHL since this day, which just so happened to be when Giroux scored his first goal of the season.
Add in a remarkable record of 9-4-3 since March 1 and Philadelphia finds itself battling for second place in the Metropolitan division and a playoff spot in the tight Eastern Conference race.
Berube pushed a new system in Philadelphia that he had almost no time to work on since he took the reigns from Laviolette after the season had already begun. While it took some time to perfect, it’s certainly one that fits the Flyers better than Laviolette’s style of run and gun.
Under the new system, Giroux has been able to shake off whatever was ailing him early in the season and has gone on a tear to reach third in the NHL in scoring with 78 points.
The team has seen line switches, like Michael Raffl to the top line and Vincent Lecavalier demoted to the fourth line, that have both benefitted and kick started the offense or specific players in time of need. The Flyers also boast a top ten penalty-killing unit, ranking sixth, and the 11th best power play in the league.
Jon Cooper - Tampa Bay Lightning
Colorado isn’t the only the team on this list that has gone from futility to achieving success. The Lightning were a team that finished 28th out of 30 teams last season and 21st out of 30 in 2012.
This season, under new coach Cooper, Tampa Bay finds itself right back in the mix with other top teams in the Eastern Conference. Having already clinched a playoff spot, the Lightning look poised to make a run back to the conference finals like they did in 2011.
While just the bounce back for Tampa Bay is impressive in itself, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Lightning’s success this season has been how they’ve done it.
Back on Nov. 11, star forward and former Rocket Richard award winner Steven Stamkos suffered a broken leg. With younger players filling roles and having to step up, Cooper’s team went 22-18-5 in Stamkos’ absence and found itself sitting tied for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Even though missing its top goal scorer and playing nine rookies this season, Tampa Bay is still eighth in the league in goals per game and has a respectable 14th ranked power play unit. Cooper has taken a team that looked lost under former coach Guy Boucher and turned it back into a contender.
Winner: Patrick Roy
What Roy has done with the Colorado Avalanche is very impressive. No other team this season has gone from pretender to contender as much as and as well as Colorado has this season.
Roy has brought intensity and arrogance from his time as a goalie and utilized it perfectly to turn the Avalanche into a force in the Western Conference. It can be argued that other coaches have been more successful, but there is no doubt denying that Roy has been the most important.