Now, You Do Know Jack-The Jack Adams Award Finalists

The Jack Adams Award is given annually to the coach who has “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” It is named for Jack Adams, a Hall of Fame player for Toronto, Ottawa (the first incarnation), and Vancouver, and long time coach and GM of the Detroit Red Wings.

Aside from the Stanley Cup, this is the trophy that every NHL coach covets. This year’s award will be a close race. This lockout shortened season made every single game even more important. Just look at the race the Isles were in. One more win, and they are the 6 seed. When you have just 48 games, every game is the stretch run.

Every coach is going to have to deal with injuries, underperforming players, rookies and surprises. It’s how they utilize their assets that really makes a difference. In this “new” NHL, a lot of teams are going with a 2 goalie system. The Martin Brodeur‘s of the world, who play 77, 78 games a year are more the exception than the rule. So, who is going to be that coach that knows how to make the right decision? Who plays? Who is scratched? Which rookie should get the most ice time? All these decisions are things a coach has to weigh on a nightly basis. The man who does the best job at it, and can get he most out of his players, is usually the most successful, and has the best chance at being Coach of the Year.

Previous Five Winners

Before we get to this year’s finalists, here’s a few tidbits of information that you may not have known about the award:

  • It was first awarded after the 1973-74 regular season
  • The first recipient was Fred Shero, father of current Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero
  • Pat Burns is the only coach to have won it three times
  • Jacques Lemaire, Pat Quinn, and Scotty Bowman have won the award twice
  • Jacques Demers is the only coach to win it in back to back years
  • The only time a New York Islanders coach ever won the award, was Al Arbour, in 1978-79

So, until Jack Capuano takes home the award in 2013-14, we will now explore the finalists for this year’s award.

The Nominees:

Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks-2nd nomination, 1 time winner

Joel Quenneville got his team off to an NHL record 21-0-3 start, on their way to 36-7-5 and a President’s Trophy.  He just pressed all the right buttons this season. He knew when to go with which goalie, and combined they allowed the fewest goals in the league.  He really seems to have figured how to identify with his players, and they seem to be very comfortable around him. One of his players even called him a “teddy bear”. I am not sure if that’s something a head coach is looking to hear, but he seems to have somehow gotten past it.

The Blackhawks ranked first overall in team defense (2.02 goals-against per game), second in team offense (3.10 goals per game) and third in penalty killing (87.2 percent).

Quenneville is one of only two men in NHL history to play in over 800 games and coach over 1,000. The other man being Jacques Lemaire. Quenneville is in his 5th season as head coach of the Blackhawks.  They have made the playoffs in every season, including winning the Stanley Cup in 2009-10. He is looking to join the 2 timers club, as he won the Jack Adams Award in 1999-2000 with St. Louis.

Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators-2nd nomination

Besides having possibly the greatest mustache in professional sports, Maclean has proven to be a steadying force behind the bench for Ottawa. He led the Senators to a 25-17-6 record and the 7th seed in the East, despite missing key players Erik Karlsson, Jared CowenJason Spezza and Milan Michalek for large chunks of the season. He also had a league high 14 rookies play at least one game this season. That’s a lot of pressure on a 2nd year head coach, especially in a shortened season.

Ottawa hung around the middle of the Eastern Conference Pack for most of the season, and at times looked like a real force to be reckoned with.  However, the Senators suffered through a late season 5-game losing streak that not only made look very vulnerable, but was almost their undoing. But, MacLean and company were able to right the ship and the Senators not only made the playoffs, but advanced to the 2nd Round.

This is Maclean’s second season as a head coach, and second in Ottawa. He was also nominated last year for the Jack Adams award after going 41-31-10.

Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks-2nd nomination, 1 time winner

After going 201-88-40 in parts of 6 seasons as the coach of the Washington Capitals, Boudreau was dismissed about a quarter of the way through the 2011-12 season. It took less than three days for the Anaheim Ducks to fire their coach, Randy Carlyle, and hire Boudreau. The Ducks knew they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hire a guy who reached 200 wins faster than any other coach in NHL history, and had already won a Jack Adams Award in 2007-08.

The Ducks were sort of the forgotten story of this shortened season.  With the blistering start that the Blackhawks had, the hockey world was more focused on the records that Chicago was shattering, than what was going on in Southern California. But, Boudreau’s team was moving right along. They finished at 30-12-6, 1st in the Pacific Division, 2nd in the West to only the Blackhawks and had their best record in franchise history.  In Boudreau’s first full season behind the Anaheim bench the team went from the 6th worst record in 2011-12,  to the 3rd best record in 2013.  The Power Play improved by almost 5%, and jumped from from 21st in the league to 4th best. He really knows how to get the most out of his stars, and turn his role players into offensive forces as well.

“Gabby”, as he’s affectionately called, due to his talkative personality, seems to have success follow him at every level. The Ducks great season is no accident. Boudreau is an AHL Hall of Fame player, coach of an AHL and ECHL champion, as well as coach of an IHL finals team. He is a previous Adams trophy winner, has also won Coach of the Year honors in the IHL and guided the Capitals to a President’s Trophy in 2007-08.

Who Should Win

There is no question that Joel Quenneville‘s Blackhawks had an amazing season. It took more than half a season for them to lose in regulation. Sometimes, the cards just fall right and everything seems to go your way. They have an extremely talented team; offensively, defensively and in the net. But, what happens when things don’t go your way? What happens when the stars you were counting on just are not available due to injury? Then, it’s really an uphill battle and coaching really comes in to play. The Ottawa Senators really had to use their organizational depth to replace key players like Erik Karlsson, Jared CowenJason Spezza and Milan Michalek for large portions of the year. It’s easy to throw in the towel and say hey, we tried. The Senators did not do that. They had 14 different rookies play at one time or another. For most of the year they were right around the middle of the Eastern Conference. A late season losing streak had them fighting for a playoff spot, but they still managed to finish in the 7 spot. You just don’t get there without great coaching, and I think Paul MacLean deserves all the credit in the world for the Sens doing as well as they did. I believe he absolutely deserves the Jack Adams Award.

Who Will Win-Eyes On Isles Prediction

When you don’t lose in regulation for half a season, it’s hard to say you don’t deserve every award in the book. Joel Quenneville pushed every button correctly this season. The Blackhawks were first overall in team defense (2.02 goals-against per game), second in offense (3.10 goals per game) and third in penalty killing (87.2%); they were also 26-2-1 when scoring first; and 26-1-2 when leading after two periods. Those numbers are hard to argue with.

Paul MacLean is a great story, and in any other season would probably get him the award, but this regular season belonged to the Chicago Blackhawks. The NHL is relatively old fashioned, and would have a very hard time giving the award for top coach to someone other than the man who’s team won 24 straight regulation games.

Joel Quenneville will walk away with his 2nd Jack Adams Award.

 

-EB

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Tags: Bruce Boudreau Jack Adams Joel Quenneville NHL Paul Maclean

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