We have seen some big improvements in teams around the NHL this season. As we get ready to flip the calendar to another month, there are some teams that are beginning to separate themselves from the pack, and some that are still in a dogfight among a very tough division. But nonetheless, the players on these teams don’t get all the credit. The coaching staff deserves just as much credit as the players for rounding them into a solid, contending team. In this article, we look at the early candidates for the Jack Adams Award, given to the league’s best coach in a season. Here are the early front runners:
1. Barry Trotz
It’s very difficult not to make a case for Barry Trotz winning this award, as he has his New York Islanders playing at the best caliber we have seen from this team in recent years. The Islanders’ 16-game streak with at least a point (the Islanders had not lost a game in regulation since October 11) was unfortunately broken on Monday night following a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, but that very same point streak is what has the Islanders in the conversation as an elite team this season. The recent play of the Islanders put Head Coach Barry Trotz as one of the early leading candidates for the Jack Adams Award this season. Off to a very impressive start that has seen them win 16 of their first 23 games this year, can the Islanders keep this torrid pace up for the rest of the year? If they can, look out for Trotz to be handed this award after the season.
2. Rick Tocchet
The Arizona Coyotes were not picked by many to make the post season this year, as only a handful of analysts had them possibly snagging a wild-card spot in April. But the Coyotes are out to prove the doubters wrong. Backed by early Vezina candidate Darcy Kuemper in net, the Coyotes are among the top teams in the Pacific Division thus far, sitting in second place in the division behind the Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach Rick Tocchet has this team believing in themselves, and they are quickly rounding into a team that proves to be very dangerous. Led by two-time Stanley Cup Champion Phil Kessel and team captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes are off to a very reasonable 15-8-3 through their first 26 games of the season. This has them on pace for a 99 point season, which would surely be enough to secure a playoff spot. If the Coyotes have that kind of success, Rick Tocchet will definitely be a candidate for the Jack Adams Award this year.
3. Dave Tippett
It’s pretty hard to ignore how well the Dave Tippett led Edmonton Oilers are doing so far. A team that came into this season with very thin odds of making the playoffs, the Oilers have quickly shown why they deserve to be given a little more respect. Backed by the strong play of forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who sit number one and two in points in the league respectively, the 16-8-3 Oilers lead the Pacific Division and are one of the top teams in the Western Conference thus far. When first-year Oilers GM Ken Holland hired Dave Tippett in the off-season, he gave Tippett one task: to turn the lowly Oilers into a playoff contender again. And through 26 Oilers games, Tippett has been holding up his end of the bargain. The Oilers’ secondary scoring has finally found their stride, as they most recently defeated the Coyotes without McDavid or Draisaitl scoring a goal. Dave Tippett will be among the leading candidates as well, as long as the Oilers continue to play the way they have been.
4. Todd Reirden
The Washington Capitals started the season on fire, shooting to the top of the Metropolitan Division within the first two weeks. The Capitals haven’t looked back, and nearly two months later, the team is still the best the Metropolitan has to offer. There were a lot of questions as to who would replace Barry Trotz behind the bench following the 2017-18 season, as Trotz left the organization after failing to negotiate a new contract, even after winning the Stanley Cup Finals. The Capitals promoted assistant coach Todd Reirden to the head coach position, and in his second year at the reigns, he deserves to be in the Jack Adams Award conversation. The Capitals look like the same team that won the cup two years ago, as they carry a high-octane offense starring Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom, as well as a defensive core that sees John Carlson leading all defensemen in points so far, and a heavy favourite to win the Norris Trophy. Add elite goaltender Braden Holtby to the mix, and you have a team that could very well make a case to raise the cup again at the end of the year. If the Capitals can keep up the pace they are on and finish the year first in the Metropolitan, Todd Reirden should be a Jack Adams finalist.
Dark Horse Pick – Craig Berube
When thinking about the success of all four coaches mentioned above, getting forgotten in the minds of Jack Adams voters is that of St. Louis Blues Head Coach Craig Berube. A coach that has flown slightly under the radar since he took over the Blues’ head coaching job last November, it’s hard to ignore what Berube has accomplished since assuming the role. As interim head coach, following the firing of Mike Yeo, he took a St. Louis Blues team that was last in the NHL standings in January, to one that made the playoffs as the third seed in the Central Division in April. From there, the Blues went on a remarkable run that saw them win the Stanley Cup in June. The Blues’ management officially lifted the “interim” tag on Berube’s position after that, and Berube signed a new contract in the offseason that made him the permanent head coach of the Blues. St. Louis has picked up right where they left off last season, leading the Central Division with a 15-5-6 record so far, despite losing star forward Vladimir Tarasenko to injury early on in the season. Berube was a Jack Adams finalist last season, and is poised to once again be named a finalist if the Blues can maintain their strong start to the season.
Whether it’s Trotz, Tocchet, Tippett, Reirden, Berube, or someone else that are among the finalists for the Jack Adams this year, it will be interesting to see which coach wins it, as all of these bench bosses have made a strong case for themselves early on this season.
Featured photo courtesy of NHL Awards 2019
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