The Jack Adams Award is given to the best head coach in the NHL. Let’s see how the race is stacking up at this point in the season.
Todd Reirden, Washington Capitals
The defending Stanley Cup Champions found themselves in a precarious position, when they were unable to come to an agreement with former head coach, Barry Trotz. They instead went with assistant head coach Todd Reirden as their new bench boss, and the transition has been seamless.
They have seemingly avoided the Stanley Cup hangover that many teams suffer and find themselves leading the Metropolitan Division. Reirden is getting Hart worthy production from his captain, Alexander Ovechkin. He is leading the team with 29 goals and 15 assists for 44 points.
Brayden Holtby seems to have regained his confidence after last season’s late struggles had cost him the starting job heading into the first round of the playoffs. He came off the bench in game 2 and finished the run to the Stanley Cup. He is currently sporting a respectable .914 SV% and 2.79 GAA.
If the Capitals can keep this pace, it will be difficult for writers to ignore Todd Reirden as a legitimate Jack Adams Award candidate.
Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets
Since their inception as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999, this iteration of the Winnipeg Jets franchise had never won a Stanley Cup Playoff game, let alone a series. That all changed last season, as the Jets made it to the Western Conference finals, eventually losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in six games.
They entered this season in an unfamiliar position as cup contenders, if not favorites. Paul Maurice has done a great job drowning out the hype and leading the Jets to 1st Place in the daunting Central Division. Led by Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg looks to be locked in for another deep playoff run. If they can stay the course, the “White Outs” will provide a tough road for anyone coming through Winnipeg.
At this point in the season, it is hard to ignore Maurice as a viable Jack Adams Award candidate.
Ken Hitchcock, Edmonton Oilers
Every good race needs a dark horse candidate. Ken Hitchcock could be that steed that makes a beggar go from rags to riches. After early season struggles led to the termination of Todd McLellan, Hitchcock came in and righted the ship in a hurry.
The always threatening, Connor McDavid is leading the way with 52 Points in 36 Games. He will definitely show up on a lot of MVP ballots, but, make no mistake, Ken Hitchcock has been the architect of this turnaround. Since coming on board, the Oilers have moved into the 2nd Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and are only 8 points back of the Pacific Division Lead.
As a late comer to the season, the Oilers’ turnaround has Hitchcock as a true Jack Adams Award finalist.
Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs
Some would say that Mike Babcock has the easiest job in the world. You just keep rolling out a star studded lineup on the ice and win. I would argue that coaching a team with so much top level talent is just the opposite of easy. Babcock has done a phenomenal job of keeping his team grounded. Even through all the drama caused by the William Nylander contract dispute, he was able to keep the focus on the games being played.
Some credit has to go to GM Kyle Dubas for luring John Tavares to the hockey Meccah, but Mike Babcock has done well with balancing the ice time and masking the short-comings. With a full compliment of players at his disposal now, the test will be to run down the Tampa Bay Lightning and secure home ice advantage. If Babs can do that, he could be a shoe in for the Jack Adams at season’s end.
Regardless of the regular season outcome, Maple Leafs success will always be measured in the postseason. A Jack Adams Award worthy season would go a long way to positioning the team for success.
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jon Cooper has been in this position many times in the past. His teams start off really hot and kind of flame out through the middle portion of the season. If they didn’t hit that lull last year, Cooper may already have one of these awards on his shelf. That will be the toughest task for 6th year bench boss.
He has already faced some adversity with his starting net minder missing almost a month to a broken foot. His defense core has been a rag tag assembly of parts at times this season. But through all that, the Lightning have a comfortable lead in the President’s Trophy race. And thus making Jon Cooper a legitimate Jack Adams Award nominee.
If Jon Cooper can keep his squad focused, this could be the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup to lose.
My Pick: Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning.
stats provided by hockey-reference.com