Yesterday I looked at the Western Conference head coaches who will be getting some mention for the Jack Adams Award. Mike Babcock, Barry Trotz, Ken Hitchcock, Dave Tippett and Alain Vigneault have all done excellent jobs this year and can all lay claim to being very deserving for the award.
Today four coaches from the Eastern Conference take center stage with each man also having proven to be well worthy of consideration for coach of the year.
Peter Deboer, New Jersey Devils: After three years as the bench boss of the Florida Panthers, Deboer took over in New Jersey and is on his way to leading the club back to the playoffs.
A year ago New Jersey missed out on the post-season for the first time in 15 years and it wouldn’t have been hard for many to believe that they would fail to do so again this year. Instead, under the guidance of the 43-year-old Deboer, the Devils currently find themselves in seventh place in the East with the possibility to still move up as high as fourth.
John Tortorella, New York Rangers: One of the more polarizing head coaches in the NHL, Tortorella has worked wonders in the Big Apple this year. The highly-demanding coach has his team pulling away from the pack in the conference and also challenging for first overall in the league.
Tortorella’s demands of attention to detail, and his desire of a strong two-way approach from every player in his lineup, has not fallen on deaf ears and the Rangers continue to be the hardest team in the league to score against. Unable to get past the first round of the playoffs in his three previous seasons in New York, Tortorella is guiding what appears to be one of the best Rangers teams since their 1994 Stanley Cup triumph.
Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators: After years of learning as an assistant under Mike Babcock in Anaheim and Detroit, MacLean is proving to be just as successful at coaching as he was during his time as an NHL player in the 80’s.
Taking over for an Ottawa team that finished well out of the playoffs a year ago, MacLean has been at the helm as the team has undergone a remarkable turnaround this year. Currently in sixth in the East and just three points back of the Northeast leading Bruins, the Senators have continued to get better as the season has progressed and even with starting goalie Craig Anderson out with an injury, the team keeps going in the right direction; a testament to MacLean’s coaching and motivation.
Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins: The reigning Jack Adams Trophy winner, Bylsma has done another stand-out job behind the bench for the Penguins. Forced to again be without the game’s best player in Sidney Crosby as well as dealing with sporadic injuries to stars like Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, Bylsma has kept his winning formula in tact all season.
One of the league’s hardest working teams night in and night out, Bylsma makes sure that the Pens are never any fun to play against regardless of who is in or out of the lineup, and has them believing they are Cup contenders even without the service of Crosby.