Jack Adams Award Candidates

With roughly twenty-five games left in each teams regular season it’s just about that time to start talking award candidates within the NHL.

No not scoring leaders, Vezina candidates, or even Calder candidates.  Instead I’ll be looking at some of the candidates (in my opinion) for the Jack Adams award for coach of the year.  In fact, I’ll go one further and name my candidates for the worst NHL coaches of the year as well.

#5 Best and Worst:

Number five on my Jack Adams candidate list is Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins.  Coming off a Stanley Cup in 2010-2011 Julien’s Bruins were seen as the favourite coming out of the East. So it’s without question the Bruins currently sit second in the East with a record of 34-17-2.

There will be no consideration for Edmonton Oilers head coach Tom Renney when it comes to coach of the year.  Even though they are still young, when you have players like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and potential rookie of the year Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  But Renney is my number five worst coach because even with these three superstar young guns, he’s had to play countless games without them, while dealing with a sub-par defense corps and goaltending.  For now Tom, you’re not the worst.

#4 Best and Worst:

It seems like an annual sighting… The Detroit Red Wings at the top of the Western Conference standings.  At 37-17-2, Mike Babcock has the Wings playing Better than anyone could have expected.  Don’t get me wrong, I had the Wings pegged for the playoffs from the beginning, but as the team has only gotten older, no one could have had them fighting for the President’s Trophy.  But they continue to buy in to Babcock’s system.  As you can see by the standings they continue to find ways to score and win.

Lindy Ruff ranks number four on my worst coaches list.  However, it’s not because he’s a bad coach.  The Buffalo Sabres went into the season with expectations far above their capabilities and for that Ruff gets some of the wrath for his overrated team … Well achieving what they’re capable of.  With big injuries to star defenseman Tyler Myers and goaltender Ryan Miller there was a definite absence on the back-end.  Add those to arguably the dumbest signing in the offseason of Ville Leino and you have a team that was going absolutely nowhere fast.  Sorry Lindy.

#3 Best and Worst:

Believe me, I didn’t see this one coming.  Although the Ottawa Senators are slowly coming back down to earth as of late, head coach Paul MacLean has to get some recognition.  He had the Sens playing far better than anyone expected.  Even now, though they may not be winning as many games, MacLean has them competing night in and night out.  The Sens currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference – this while dealing with injuries to Alfredsson and Michalek.  Although, much has to be said about goalie Craig Anderson’s play, you have to believe that MacLean has done something that Sens coaches of past have been unable to do – earn the trust of the players.  This has a lot to do with the teams 28-22-8 record this far this season.

At third worst I have a coach combo – the Carolina Hurricanes coaching duo of Paul Maurice and Kirk Muller.  Without question, the Canes are not a bad team with the likes of reigning rookie of the year Jeff Skinner, captain Eric Staal, and goalie Cam Ward.  Yet the team sits last (fifteenth) in the Eastern Conference with 51 points – 11 points out of eighth spot in the conference.  Although you can’t totally criticize the coaches for this abysmal year, you also can’t say they ever fired their team up.  The Canes did have to play without young gun Skinner for 16 games but that doesn’t explain a 20-25-11 record.  Under Maurice, the team started the season 8-13-4 and since then the team has gone 12-12-7.  So neither coach has been able to (or was able to) motivate a decent team to play at least respectable hockey.

#2 Best and Worst:

This one was tough.  But because the St. Louis Blues are still sitting in the middle of the pack, I have placed Ken Hitchcock as my number two candidate for the Jack Adams award.  Since taking over for Davis Payne, Hitchcock’s Blues have a record of 21-5-6 which has grabbed the team fourth seed in the West.  Hitchcock’s defensive minded system has both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot playing the best hockey of their careers.

The second worst also a coaching duo – belonging to the Montreal Canadiens.  Even though Jacques Martin had a record above .500, he was replaced by unilingual anglophone Randy Cunneyworth who certainly hasn’t changed the fortunes of the Canadiens.  In fact, since coming in Cunneyworth has been the center of attention with his inability to speak French.  The team, which was expected to do fairly well this year has instead been surrounded by turmoil – the coaching change, the trade of Cammalleri, and their inability to live up to fans expectations.  Regardless of the off-ice issues, both coaches were unable to take a team lacking a superstar scorer and make a competitive team with what they have.

#1 Best and Worst:

Without any doubt in my mind, my top choice for Jack Adams award candidates is the New York Rangers‘ John Tortorella.  Made out to be a hard-nosed coach, both through the media and this year’s edition of HBO‘s 24/7, he has had his team playing the best hockey of any team this year – including a huge comeback win in the 2012 version of the Bridgestone Winter Classic in Philadelphia.  The players trust in Torts’ system and because of that and their devotion to his type of play they find themselves sitting first in the Eastern Conference and only one point back of the Red Wings for first in the NHL.  With captain Ryan Callahan stepping up, young gun Derek Stepan fourth in team scoring and first on the team in assists, and King Henrik (Lundqvist) sharing more of the time with Marty Biron while staying rested, it seems that the Rangers may be the team to beat in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

Although they are currently only 10 points out of a playoff spot in the East, the Tampa Bay Lightening sit fourteenth in the Eastern Conference and have the worst coach this year in the NHL.  The only reason they have remained competitive is because of players like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Victor Hedman who are capable of playing hockey, score, and win (sometimes) without a good coach.  The reason I have ranked head coach Guy Boucher as the worst coach of the year is because I believe that the Lightening players have stopped playing his system.  This became evident about a quarter of the way through the season when the team just couldn’t seem to win games and dropped to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.  This decline and lack of respect for Boucher’s system began after the Philadelphia Flyers embarrassed the Lightening players while they were playing Boucher’s 1-3-1 trap system.  The players, the organization, and even Lightening fans were embarrassed by the type of defensive game that Boucher played.  Because of this loss of respect from his players, Boucher tips my list as the worst coaches in the NHL this season.

Jack Adams Trophy

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