The Jack Adams is the award for coach of the year in the NHL, and I cannily offered to write the prediction post for it, both because it’s a cute bit of wordplay (check out my official Aerys Sports portrait!) and because it’s honestly going to be very, very easy.
This season has been a revolving door for bench bosses. My team, the Washington Capitals, fired former savior Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with former darling Dale Hunter, for lackluster results. The last time we did this, Bruce was a shoo-in for the Jacky (is that what we call it?), but as I write this, the Capitals are holding on to a playoff spot with their fingernails, so much as I personally adore him, even I can’t offer Hunter up as a viable candidate.
And the same goes for Bruce, who landed in Anaheim, though I wouldn’t describe it as “on his feet.” So let’s look at the other options.
I’d like to give consideration to Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien for pretty much the same reason: their making the playoffs was never really in question and they’ve all cruised to a division title. The same could go for everyone in the Atlantic except the Islanders, to the point where none of them are really notable. Dan Bylsma gets an honorable mention for leading the Penguins to 100+ points despite dealing with a horrific number of injuries. Mike Babcock did his usual bang-up job leading the Red Wings to a spot, as has Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks to a slightly lesser extent. But don’t get confused by all the boldface names I just threw at you! They are irrelevant! Here are the guys I find really notable.
Kevin Dineen was hired by the Florida Panthers in May of last year and has led them to the playoffs for the first time since 2000. As a Capitals fan I look at him with a mixture of disgust, dispair, and disappointment, but even I am forced to admit he deserves some kind of recognition. The Panthers simple aren’t a playoff team and yet there they are, winners of the Southeast.
Barry Trotz got his 500th win this season when the Predators downed the Red Wings 4-1 and took away their home ice advantage, and a milestone like that is always worth a couple of votes. He’s also a veritable NHL institution, second only to the Sabres’ Lindy Ruff in consecutive games coached (and won) among current coaches, AND he’s never won the Adams before, though he was a finalist last year. If anything he just deserves it, like why Forrest Gump won all those Oscars even though Pulp Fiction AND Shawshank Redemption were also released in 1994.
But really, there’s no competition. Ken Hitchcock was hired on Nov. 6, 2011, and turned around Blues to make them first in the West and put them in serious contention for the Prez. He turned around the personal ignominy of being fired by the Blue Jackets into a delightful run for the St. Louis Blues — success that was thrown into sharp contrast with the nearly concurrent firings of Boudreau and Paul Maurice that were largely ineffectual.
In short, my best guess for the finalists are Kevin Dineen, Barry Trotz, and Ken Hitchcock, and I feel strongly that Hitch will pick up the Addy (can we call it that?). Now who wants to get me a ticket to Vegas?