It was recently announced that Team Canada chose their coaches for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
So full staff is: Babcock, Quenneville, Julien, Trotz and Peters
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) November 5, 2015
Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs will be head coach with assistants Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins, Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals and Bill Peters of the Carolina Hurricanes.
While some are unhappy with omissions like Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens whose team sits at the top of the NHL standings, what’s more interesting is the omission of recent Jack Adams winners.
The only coach on the staff to have won the Jack Adams trophy for best head coach in the National Hockey League since the lockout is Julien, having won it back in 2008-09. The only other coach on the staff to win the award was Quenneville, way back in 1999-00 with the St. Louis Blues. That’s 15 years ago!
Since Julien’s win, Canadian coaches Dave Tippett (Arizona Coyotes), Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis Blues), Paul MacLean (Ottawa Senators, now assistant coach of the Anaheim Ducks), Patrick Roy (Colorado Avalanche) and Bob Hartley (Calgary Flames) have won the Jack Adams trophy, “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success” according to NHL.com
Babcock, who was named the head coach, has yet to be selected by the National Hockey League Broadcasters’ Association for the Jack Adams trophy, despite becoming the highest paid head coach in the National Hockey League when signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs over the summer. His coaching with the Detroit Red Wings has been regarded in high esteem, and is constantly name dropped as one of the best coaches in the league. Nobody really doubts that he should be on the staff, let alone head coach of Team Canada. So why is he leading the charge for Team Canada and not the previous Jack Adams winners? Why does Julien take a back seat to him?
The answer lies in why those coaches won the award. The Broadcasters’ Association loves a good story, and a good story usually involves an underdog. Both Patrick Roy and Bob Hartley took bottom teams to the playoffs, surprising the league. Roy did it as a rookie NHL coach and Hockey Hall of Fame inducted goaltender. That’s a great story. Most in the league agreed he wasn’t the best head coach, or that he provided his team the most success. Merely that he turned around a bad team and they won more games than expected. That’s generally considered more important than who coached their team the best.
Hartley and Roy now sit in a new place: the basement of the National Hockey League. They are joined by fellow Adams winner Paul MacLean, who isn’t even head coaching in the league anymore and instead councils the head coach of the eight points in 12 games Anaheim Ducks. Who coaches them? Why none other than former Jack Adams trophy winner in 2007-08 Bruce Boudreau! To be fair, you know whose team has less points than the Flames, Ducks and Avalanche? That’s right, Mike Babcock’s Toronto Maple Leafs. But at least you can see the improvement in their play, even if they are a bottom five National Hockey League team.
So did Team Canada make the wrong decision by selecting Mike Babcock, or did they make the right decision to disregard recent Jack Adams trophy winners? But more importantly, does the Broadcasters’ Association need to start making it clear what designates the best coach in the National Hockey League in order to give it to the right coach? Why doesn’t coaches like Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers and the before mentioned Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens get more credit for the constant success and height of their teams in the standings? It just feels wrong for the NHL to be awarding a trophy for the best coach in the league year after year and guys like Vigneault, Quenneville and Babcock, who are generally regarded as the best coaches in the league, have to be lucky to get nominated. I will just add that Vigneault being passed up for Bill Peters is perplexing, so I hope it was Alain turning down the job.
I understand the value of a good story, but awarding the Jack Adams trophy shouldn’t be about a story. It’s about awarding the best coach of the regular season. If Mike Babcock is head coaching Team Canada despite never winning the trophy for best head coach in the NHL, there’s certainly more wrong with the NHL’s award process than Team Canada’s coaching selection.