The Too Soon Jack Adams Awards Candidates
The Jack Adams award is for the best coach in the NHL. It is an important award because a coach can make or break a team. A good coach is successful in turning around a franchise, which has been very clear with the transformation of the Islanders in recent years. Going from fringe playoff team till Barry Trotz took over and made them a solid playoff team with Stanley Cup aspirations. The work of a bad coach is also clear on how a team can constantly underachieve their potential.
The work of Todd Reirden, Trotz’s successor with the Capitals has showcased this recently. Reirden inherited the reigning cup championship team’s roster and yet could not make it out of the first round despite facing a Hurricanes team they should’ve beaten and an Islanders team that completely dominated the series, which resulted in his firing. I will look into the Jack Adams award candidates for next season with this point of view.
The legendary “Q”. The man has accomplished a lot in his decorated coaching career, including three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks dynasty. Last season has to be up there among his list of accomplishments though. Quenneville joined the Panthers organization a couple of years ago and prior to then, the Panthers had a reputation of underachieving. They had talented players but fell short of the playoffs.
Enter franchise goalie Sergei Bobrovsky via free agency. Then add a Stanley Cup winning coach. Finally, a proven playoff performer in Patric Hörnqvist. Suddenly the Panthers went from disappointment to big surprise as Quenneville changed the team’s style of play from heavy defensive hockey to the play of hockey that wins cups aka a good mix of everything. Quenneville changed this team and deserves to be rewarded for his efforts.
Quenneville is entering his 25th season as a head coach picking up 4 rings, (1 as an assistant with Colorado.) Last season’s second-place finish in the COVID Central division and the realignment to the Atlantic division should mean a high finish for the panthers. A long cup run could also be seen in the tea leaves.
The meaning of my initial comment on how an excellent coach transforms a team’s identity is clearly obvious within my first two candidates. Rod Brind’Amour, former captain of the Hurricanes, inherited a team nearing the end of a rebuild and they wanted someone to help take them to the next level. Brind’Amour not only accomplished that in his first season of 2018-19 but also exceeded that by a fair margin.
The Hurricanes that season were not even expecting to make the playoffs. They not only made it but also found themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals. Since then the Hurricanes have only gotten better as they added more depth to all ends of their lineup. This season the Hurricanes took a big step as they were one of the best teams this year and no small part due to Brind’Amour. His players love him and that is clear by how they play for him.
The loss in the Second Round to the eventual Stanley Cup winning Lightning has not soured this team’s expectations nor his chances to be one of the top coaches not only this season but for many seasons to come. The reigning Jack Adams award winner will have a challenging task winning the award back to back. Jacques Demers won the award in 1987-88 with the Detroit Red Wings and is the only person to win it back to back.
If the NHL were to include the playoffs in the Jack Adams award voting, Ducharme would have won the award running away. This season will be a challenge for him. Shea Weber is out for the season and may have to retire. All-World Goalie Carey Price had knee surgery and could miss a bit of the season. GM Marc Bergevin built Montreal for the long run. G Jake Allen proved he needed a change of scenery holding his now with the Habs while Price missed games because of injury. Recently we discussed some things Montreal needs to do to make a strong cup run again.
Bergevin set this franchise up for success and the firing of Claude Julien in the middle of last season sent a signal throughout the origination. Making the Finals is not enough for this team and should Ducharme win the division he could become the second coach to win Adam’s back-to-back.
How the Penguins stay competitive is all because of the coaching of one Mike Sullivan. Last season could have been a disaster for the Pens. Many predicted a losing campaign following a quick exit in the play-in round to the 12th seed Canadians was disappointing, or the unexpected resignation of GM Jim Rutherford. To go along with the trading of starter goalie Matt Murray.
The team, however, not only did better than many expected but flew past them, as they were one of the best teams in the league. Their only downfall in the playoffs was the play of goalie Tristan Jarry. The Penguins would have won against the Islanders with a decent goalie as not only did they play better defensively but also scored a ton on a tough defensive system and netminder.
That Sullivan overcame adversity is why he is on this list. His style and leadership should keep a veteran group strong and with their eyes on the prize.
Putting Berube on this list was a tough call. He could just as easily be on a list of coaches on the hot seat. The Blues’ off-season has been eventful. Starting with the trade demand from star winger Vladimir Tarasenko. The Loss of a talented young and embattled Defenseman in Vince Dunn. Follow by a draft-day trade that sent Sammy Blais and a draft pick to the Rangers.
Berube righted this ship once and he should be able to do it again. Making the Blues a contender would easily make him a candidate to win for the fifth time in the organizations’ history. The Last to win was Ken Hitchcock in 2012.
Berube is in the last year of a three-year contract they awarded him following the Cup win. Not only will he need regular-season success in a tough central division. The Arizona Coyotes switch from the West to the Central following the addition of the Seattle Kracken. Arizona has had the Blue’s number for the last 3 years. Winning this division is possible and would cement his legend in St Louis lore.
Barry Trotz the two-time winner of the Adams, and third on the all-time wins list behind the man at number one on this list, could be a solid candidate if the Islanders dominate. Minnesota had a surprising year and Dean Evason was a large part of the reason. Barring a rebuild, his name could pop up if they continue an upward glide. Peter Laviolette is in the same position as Evason.
Andre Tourigny, Gerard Gallant, Brad Larsen, Don Granato, and Darryl Sutter all took over teams either during this season or in the off-season. each has the potential to turn around a struggling franchise. Dave Hakstol is starting from scratch with the Kraken, a la Gallant who won with the expansion Knights.
We took a stab in the dark and settled on this list. Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
The View From the North
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