Scotty Bowman’s coaching resume would make most NHL franchises envious: nine Stanley Cups, 1,244 regular season wins, 28 playoff appearances, and 223 playoff wins.
The only underwhelming statistic for the most decorated coach in NHL history?
Two Jack Adams Awards.
The coach with the most wins, Cups, and second most playoff wins, who helmed 16 Conference-winning teams in 31 seasons, was only considered the best bench boss twice.
That’s the problem with the Jack Adams Award: it rewards overachievement over continued success.
This season is no different. Rookie coach Patrick Roy is getting a ton of fanfare as the front-runner for coach of the year, after turning a team around that finished dead last in the West to Central Division champs. Last year, Paul MacLean received the hardware after he willed the Sens to the post-season without Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson or starting goaltender Craig Anderson for extended stretches.
Why is ‘best coach’ synonymous with ‘best Cinderella story’?
Joel Quenneville, a Jack Adams finalist last year, led Chicago to a historic season in ’12-’13, including an NHL record 24 game unbeaten streak in regulation. Their .802 winning percentage ranked fifth all time. Yet MacLean was anointed the NHL’s best, leading a middling team to an average season. Claude Julien’s Boston Bruins have been a juggernaut in the East this year, a balanced unit that doesn’t have one scorer amongst the NHL’s top-20 point-getters. He’ll lose out to Roy.
The voting process should give precedence to coaches that win, similar to the tendency of giving the Hart Trophy to the Art Ross winner, or handing the Norris to the highest-scoring blue liner. That’s the best gauge of success, as ‘best’ coach is subjective enough. If overachievement is the barometer, a case can be made for a dozen coaches. The New Jersey Devils didn’t qualify for the postseason, but Pete DeBoer was considered a success as they overachieved by not finishing in the East’s basement. New Jersey fans could argue he squeezed as much success out of his squad as Roy did with the 1990’s time-capsule roster he had.
The argument against this approach is good teams with top players will win with whoever is pacing the bench. Top teams aren’t entirely built on player personnel, however. Everyone had the Vancouver Canucks as a playoff-team coming into the season with that core. But look at the affect of John Tortorella; two seasons removed from winning the President’s Trophy to 12th in the conference. Does this make Tortorella a bad coach? Maybe. Is he the wrong coach? Absolutely. Plug the Tortorella philosophy into a team like Detroit and they probably miss the post-season, too.
Only seven President Trophy winning coaches have won the Jack Adams over the past 40 years. These are teams that are the BEST in the league, icing consistent excellence over a grueling seven months. Coaches shouldn’t be penalized because their teams are so dominant, they should be acknowledged.
Stop looking at these flavour-of-the-year coaches through rose-tinted visors. The best coaches command the best teams.
Freelance sports writer. Ex-intern at The Hockey News and 680 News.