The Jack Adams Trophy, awarded annually to the coach that has “contributed the most to his team’s success”, has been a great point of contention for many years in the National Hockey League. More often than not, it appears that the award goes not to the coach of an elite team, but rather the team that has seemingly exceeded expectations the most.
Take the last decade of Jack Adams Trophy winners for example. Of the past ten winners, six of them were in the first year of their tenures. On top of that, only two coaches in that group had been even three-plus seasons into their stints, and those came in 2004 and 2006 with John Tortorella and Lindy Ruff, respectively. Clearly, a coach who can impress in his first season has an excellent chance of winning the trophy.
It’s great to see coaches turn around the fortunes of their teams, but is that what the award should be all about? By the definition of the award, a first-year coach’s impact is much easier to notice and quantify, as opposed to a coach who might be in the fourth or fifth season with his club. Just staying emplyed that long should be seen as an accomplishment given the short shelf lives of NHL bench bosses these days, as not even a Jack Adams can guarantee job security. (Paul Mclean and Dan Bylsma must be thrilled dusting their trophies in unemployment. Maybe Patrick Roy can join them in a year or two!)
Bruce Boudreau Robbed?
Boudreau has had a tremendous amount of regular season success at the NHL level. His early teams in Washington were characterized by free-wheeling offense led by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin. When this strategy failed to pay dividends in the playoffs, Boudreau unsuccessfully shifted to a defensive approach, which eventually sent him packing.
The former minor-league journeyman wasn’t out of work for long though, as the Anaheim Ducks snatched him up in the same season (2011-12). Since then, Boudreau has amassed a .649 winning percentage through 270 regular season games. A failure to reach the Western Conference Final unfortunately stains that otherwise glistening resume.
Boudreau has in some respects come a long way since his Washington days. He appears to have preserved some of the aggressive forechecking and high-octane offense that characterized those Capitals teams. However, he’s reached a middle ground by also stressing responsible defensive play.
In other respects, he’s maintained some habits that he’s often been criticized for in the past: alternating goaltenders too often, switching up lines too often or incorrectly, leaning too much on clearly inadequate veterans, and perhaps not administering discipline equally throughout the lineup.
Besides the goaltending issue (which hasn’t reared it’s head in the post-season…yet), the things that observers often criticize him for also afflict many other coaches around the league. Results shouldn’t be the only factor when assessing the work of a head coach, but they’re certainly there and then some for Boudreau (in the regular season).
Victim Of Success
2015 has been a particularly progressive year for Boudreau, as he’s steered away from the criticism that his team was not elite at five on five possession. The Ducks were one of the league’s very best at five on five after the trade deadline, and have been just as good during the playoffs.
When a team runs away with their division and racks up 51 wins, is elite at five on five, and boasts some of the best talent in the league from top to bottom, shouldn’t the guy running the show at least get a nomination? Apparently not, according to voters, who continue to drop the ball in not rewarding dominance.
Sure, stories like the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche last year are great, but isn’t it a crime that Mike Babcock has never won an Adams, or that Joel Quenneville hasn’t won one since the turn of the century? A victim of his own success, Boudreau at least deserved some recognition this season. With the way his Ducks are playing though, he might get quite the consolation prize in the form of Lord Stanley’s Cup.