The Jack Adams Award is awarded annually to the National Hockey League coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”
Predictions For The 2015-16 Jack Adams Award
Honorable Mention: Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars: 50-23-9, 109 pts
Whenever you win the toughest division in the league people take notice. When you do so after missing the playoffs the previous year you have to give a lot of credit to the man behind the bench. All year long NHL fans and media have gushed over the Dallas Stars offense, which lead the league with 3.23 G/PG. However, even with the acquisition of Patrick Sharp and almost a full season of John Klingberg, the Stars only improved their overall scoring from last year by six goals. This is not meant to knock the team in any way, but more so to praise the work head coach Lindy Ruff has done to make the Stars a more complete team this year.
The Stars allowed 30 fewer goals this season than last year. That improvement on defense led to a 17 point improvement in the standings and a division title; the team’s first division title in 10 years, and their first since moving into the Central. This is the third division title for coach Ruff, after winning two with the Buffalo Sabres.
While winning a division is always impressive, closing out the season strong was important as the St. Louis Blues were breathing down the Stars’ neck. Losing top center Tyler Seguin to injury three weeks before playoffs began seemed like the scales were tipped in St. Louis’ favor. Give credit to Ruff, who led the team to a 8-2-0 record to close out the season.
Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins: 48-26-8, 104 pts
Did any coach make a more drastic impact this season than Sullivan? At the start of this season the Penguins were floundering out of the gate. Struggling to a 15-10-3 record before head coach Mike Johnston was fired and Sullivan was brought in. Since then, the team has moved from a wild card spot to second in the Metropolitan Division and finished the regular season as the hottest team in the league.
Noticeably, Sullivan’s system has sparked captain Sidney Crosby’s play. Under Johnston, Crosby was playing arguably the worst hockey of his career. Since Sullivan came in Crosby turned his game around and ended up finishing 3rd overall in the Art Ross chase with 85 points. The Penguins need Crosby at the top of his game to be successful, and under Sullivan, he’s gone back to being the scorer the Penguins have come to know and love, scoring 31 goals and 66 points since Sullivan’s hiring.
The Penguins finished the season with the league’s 3rd best offense and 6th best defense. This would be impressive any year, but perhaps it’s even more impressive this season when you consider all the injuries that Pittsburgh endured. The loss of key players like Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Olli Maatta, and Marc-Andre Fleury have forced Sullivan to shuffle his lineups throughout the season. For a team who’s been criticized for lacking depth in the past couple years, it’s been impressive that Sullivan has got so much from this squad.
Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers: 47-26-9, 103 pts
Nobody in the history of the NHL has won a division title with a 44-year old leading their team in scoring until this year. That isn’t really anything to say about Gerard Gallant, but who doesn’t like bringing up Jaromir Jagr?
Jagr of course is ageless. And while he was a huge part of the Panthers success this season, Gallant has been guiding hand behind this young team’s coming out season. Gallant has done a fantastic job developing Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, and even Vincent Trocheck into a formidable core of players.
This is the first season as a head coach that Gallant has made the playoffs after missing his previous four years with the Blue Jackets and Panthers. His is a story of not only an improving roster but perhaps his maturing into the coach people thought he would be earlier. Gallant was a smart player and it was assumed his smarts would carry over into coaching, but it didn’t click as quickly as expected. This season he’s been pushing all the right buttons and getting his team to play to their potential. He’s got a squad that now believes in themselves and is not only going to get better but has learned how to win a division and will get valuable playoff experience.
Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals: 56-18-8, 120 pts
The last few seasons it seems the Jack Adams award was given to a coach who took a team that nobody thought would be good and turning them into a somewhat competent team. While that’s impressive in it’s own right, this season the NHL needs to celebrate the head coach of the league’s best team, Barry Trotz.
Trotz has long been respected around the league, but has never won the Jack Adams. Despite years of willing talentless Predators teams into playoff contention, Trotz never quite had enough success to snag the award. Not this year though. Barry Trotz deserves the Jack Adams.
The Capitals have not just been the best team in the league this season, they’ve improved by 19 points over their 2014-15 campaign. The only team to improve more is the Buffalo Sabres who tanked for Connor McDavid.
Trotz has not only instilled a winning mentality in Washington, but has also molded this team into a complete squad that can beat you multiple ways. Whether it’s Alex Ovechkin and his 50 goals beating you offensively, or Braden Holtby shutting you down in net, the Caps have everything they need this year to win the Stanley Cup.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com