It’s that time of year where the NHL starts announcing the nominees for the NHL Awards. On Wednesday, it was announced that Auston Matthews was a nominee for the Calder Trophy for the top rookie in the NHL. While Matthews is more than likely the winner of that award, could there be another award that a member the Toronto Maple Leafs could get?
Mike Babcock is one of the best coaches in recent memory. He has won a CIS Title, World Junior Title, World Championship Title, a Stanley Cup and two Olympic Gold Medals. However, the Jack Adams Award has eluded him. He was nominated in 2008, but lost to Bruce Boudreau. Could this year be the year he gets nominated again?
Now, one thing that must be remembered is that the Jack Adams Award doesn’t really go the best coach. It goes to the coach whose team who defies expectation. Are you the coach of a team that was expected to do badly and went on to make the playoffs? Well, then you’re probably going to be nominated for the Jack Adams.
This season, the Leafs weren’t expected to do that well. They weren’t going to be a bottom-five team, but they were nowhere making the playoffs in most opinions. There was supposed to be more pain coming. That was not the case as the Leafs obviously made the playoffs and even flirted with second place in the Atlantic Division at times.
The Leafs were not meant to be this good this early. There was supposed to be a couple more years before the Leafs were playoff contenders. This is a young team. They would not be this good as a team without good coaching.
Babcock clearly fits the description for a Jack Adams nominee.
Who Stands in the Way?
The problem is that there is another coach that fits the description even more than Babcock. The Columbus Blue Jackets were supposed to be real bad. After finishing 26th in 2016, they weren’t expected to do any better this season. Their coach, John Tortorella, was on the chopping block. Then this season and that massive 16-game winning streak happened.
The Hockey News recently asked this question in one of their roundtables and came up with three coaches that should win the award. Babcock and Tortorella were two out of the three. The other was Glen Gultzan of the Calgary Flames. Rather than bringing an unexpected team to the playoffs, they give the Flames’ improved team stats as the reason for Gulutzan. These three could very well be the nominations as they probably have the biggest reasons for being nominated unless the NHL wants to surprise us.
The favorite is clearly Tortorella with all the Blue Jackets did this season. If playoffs meant anything, which it doesn’t, Babcock might have a stronger case. With Columbus and Calgary already being eliminated and the Leafs still putting up a fight, that might have given him a better shot.
So, will Babcock be nominated? Yes. Will he win? Probably not. The sad thing is that the Leafs will be expected to win going forward. This might be his best chance to win the award with the way it is given out.