It’s the halfway point in the season and we’re creating a hypothetical mid-season Jack Adams Award here at DailyFaceoff.com. We’ve created the shortlist of nominees who could all be judged to have contributed the most to his team’s success. Normally, the NHL Broadcasters’ Association chooses who wins but we’d like you to choose! The poll can be found at the end. We’re going to run through mid-season versions of all of the prominent NHL trophies and awards so stay tuned!
At it again, Lemaire is exceeding expectations in his second stint with the New Jersey Devils. With largely the same group that stumbled into the playoffs and saw a first round exit, Lemaire has brought New Jersey right back to the top of the Atlantic Division and first place in the East. Lemaire’s Devils have had to battle back from many key injuries to top players like Patrik Elias and David Clarkson but also work with a defense core that is largely “no-name”. Having one of the best goalies in the league doesn’t hurt but the Devils also own the league’s best road record.
Everybody expected Detroit to play excellent hockey again this season with the abundance of talent on their squad but when the Red Wings lost superstar after superstar to long-term injuries – Detroit’s season appeared to be over. However, the Cup-winning coach was forced to completely shift his gameplan from a run-and-gun offense which led the league in goals per game last season to a defensive stalwart that will force you to play their game. Much of the Wings’ success on the year hasn’t just come from gritty play by lines comprised of mostly AHLers and 4th-liners, but also with a rookie goalie. Jimmy Howard was never supposed to get more than 25-30 starts on the year and he’s already given the Wings 26 solid starts in his rapid development into a number 1.
Phoenix. Seemingly the bottom of the barrel when it comes to hockey markets is actually looking like a dominant playoff contender in a year nobody thought they would even be in Phoenix – where they, ironically, have played their best hockey. Dave Tippett, after a poor showing in Dallas last season, has turned this Phoenix team around into a defensive juggernaut. With very few additions in the offseason, Phoenix has improved their average goals against per game from 3.04 in 08-09 to just 2.35 so far this season. They’ve seen consistent play from all forward lines and are seeing production from guys like Radim Vrbata and Robert Lang – guys deemed to be unfit to play at an NHL-level. It’s no doubt Tippett can be attributed to much of the success of the Coyotes who is now in his 7th season coaching in the Pacific Division.
It seems like every year Lindy Ruff is up for Coach of the Year honours. This season, he’s led Buffalo atop the Northeast division again after narrowly missing the postseason last year. It’s no doubt that Buffalo’s success can be attributed to Ryan Miller this season, who is leading the goalies in most major stat categories, but Buffalo’s consistency up front can easily be attributed to Ryan Miller’s success. Defense has always been a focus of Lindy Ruff and each player up front for the Sabres has the ability to shut down another team’s top scorers.
The last time a rookie head coach won the Jack Adams award was Ted Nolan with the Buffalo Sabres in 1996-97 but that doesn’t mean Joe Sacco is worthy of Coach of the Year. Sacco has helped turn around the Avs’ putrid 2008-09 campaign and regained their former place at the top of the Northwest Division. Sacco brings leadership and guidance to the 4th-youngest team in the league, comprised of many players he coached at the Avs’ AHL-affiliate Lake Erie Monsters the past two seasons. It’s been Sacco’s decision to stick with the young core and get the most out of their goaltending workhorse – newcomer Craig Anderson.
Honourable mentions that I left out and will probably get flack for: Joel Quenneville, Todd McLellan, Bruce Boudreau, and Barry Trotz.