Tag: Jack Adams Award

Ted Nolan

Former Adams Award winner Ted Nolan takes job as Team Latvia head coach

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Former Jack Adams Award winner with the Buffalo Sabres, Ted Nolan, is back in the game as a head coach but it’s not in the NHL.

Nolan accepted the job as head man for Team Latvia’s hockey team and he’ll help them gear up for future World Championships and eventually the 2014 Olympics. While it was rumored that Mike Keenan was being sought out for the job last week, it ends up being Nolan that takes the job.

Nolan’s job isn’t going to be easy. Latvia finished 13th at the 2011 IIHF World Championships and avoided being sent down to IIHF Division I after surviving the relegation round. As for what Latvia was looking for in a coach, James Mirtle makes note from the Latvian hockey president what they were looking for.

“We were looking for a neutral, authoritative coach with lots of experience and good hockey knowledge,” Latvian Hockey President Kirovs Lipmans said. “This is exactly what we found with Ted Nolan.”

Nolan will be the first North American to coach Team Latvia since 1939 and for him, the cupboard of NHL talent is sparse. The current Latvian NHLers is a short list and unimpressive to say the least. Defensemen Oskars Bartulis, Karlis Skrastins, and Arturs Kulda as well as forward Raitis Ivanans are the only four in the league and Ivanans missed most of last season with a concussion and is still dealing with the effects from that. These are good reasons why Latvia is currently ranked 12th in the world in hockey and why Nolan is getting the call to try and make something out of nothing.

The brand of hockey Nolan will bring is a tough, defensive one that can have great success on the international stage. Nolan can have a tough demeanor, however, and how that works with a foreign team will be curious to see. Despite Nolan’s successes as a head coach in the NHL, he’s only coached for four seasons (two each with Buffalo and New York) twice leading teams to the playoffs.

His record as a coach was solid going 147-140 with 19 ties and 21 overtime losses as well, but issues with the front offices in both Buffalo and Long Island led to his demise. While Buffalo did well moving on from Nolan to Lindy Ruff, the Islanders haven’t made the playoffs again since Nolan took them there in 2007. Here’s to hoping Nolan can work his magic in Riga, Latvia and get a proud country to be competitive once again.

Dan Bylsma takes home Jack Adams Award as coach of the year

Dan Bylsma
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Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma helped Pittsburgh navigate a minefield of injuries to big time players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in propelling the Penguins into the playoffs as the fourth seed. He also helped the Penguins to win 49 games this year and came within one point of winning the Atlantic Division.

That sort of rèsumè for Bylsma helped him win the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year. Bylsma edged out Alain Vigneault of Vancouver and Nashville’s Barry Trotz for the award. For Bylsma it’s his first coach of the year award and one that he more than earned given the laundry list of injuries the Penguins faced this season up front at forward. Starting out the year without Jordan Staal and closing it without Crosby and Malkin would make most coaches crack.

Bylsma adjusted and helped make the Penguins a tenacious defensive team and one that was poised to be a tough out in the playoffs. The Pens ultimately lost in seven games in the first round to Tampa Bay, but they couldn’t have gotten even that far without his coaching.

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Byslma said his biggest adjustments came before the injuries happened

Call it typical hockey-style modesty if you want, but Bylsma seemed adamant that he didn’t really do anything drastic to keep the Penguins on a winning track after Crosby and Malkin went down.

“I’d like to tell you that I did something really marvelous to keep it going but that’s not the case,” Bylsma said. “And looking back I think that the best thing that we’ve done – and we continue to do – is give our players have a clear understanding of how we’re going to have success as a team and how we’re going to play.”

“At that time when you were all asking what we were doing I felt sheepish thinking I’m really not doing that much. I think all that was done long before the injuries happened.

The impact of HBO

HBO’s 24/7 series was a wonderful display of storytelling, colorful language and Matt Hendricks’ gnarly stitches. One of the biggest beneficiaries was Bylsma, though. He came across as a wonderful (and detailed) motivator and a warm family man in those great episodes.

Bylsma admitted that the documentary series probably helped him win the Jack Adams.

“I think even within the Pittsburgh community of media people, they had a picture of Dan Bylsma in their brain in which they see about 5 percent of who you are,” Bylsma said. “They see a serious guy behind the bench. That’s not me. I’m a terribly emotional person and guy. I have a huge passion for the game and it’s not shown when I’m on the bench.”

Bylsma said that the series showed a different side of his personality and the relationships he has with his players.

I think it was advantageous for me, but I’m not going to put an asterisk by the award just because I had 24/7 though.

Hopefully we’ll get another deeper look at the two coaches in the 2012 Winter Classic when HBO’s cameras roll again.

PHT makes the case for the Jack Adams Trophy finalists


Despite what many stodgy, humorless people will tell you, a lot of what happens in sports is out of peoples’ control. That’s especially the case in hockey. While NFL coaches micromanage their teams down to every last two-a-day practice, NHL bench bosses can only do so much in the constantly changing game of hockey.

That randomness creates a wild array of subjectivity when it comes to judging their decision making skills, but that’s part of the fun too, right? PHT breaks down the case for the three finalists nominated for the Jack Adams Award.

Joe Yerdon’s case for Dan Bylsma:

Injuries are a part of every coach’s routine in the NHL. You manage, you insert new guys into a lineup that was already clicking for you, and you deal with the fans, press, and team executives who all demand that you keep things going strong even if you’re without a star player. Dan Bylsma had to do all that and then some as he was without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for half the year and dealt with injuries to a host of other forwards.

While no one will feel too bad for a guy that coaches two of the best players in the world, keeping the team winning while playing without both of them for most of the year is beyond impressive. From Bylsma’s work to bring guys up to the AHL to help them blend in well to his work to make the team more of a defensive nightmare to face off against to taking the Penguins to fourth place in the Eastern Conference and one point away from winning the Atlantic Division over the Flyers is beyond impressive. The fact that the Pens won 49 games in spite of all the hardship makes him more than worthy of the Jack Adams Trophy.

Matt Reitz’s case for Barry Trotz:

Quick, name a forward on the Nashville Predators NOT named Mike Fisher.  Now think about the player you just selected—is that the kind of player you’d expect to lead a team to about 100 points each season?  There’s no way to look at the Predators’ crop of forwards and not wonder how they do it.  Their big free agent acquisition played two games for the Preds before he was knocked out for the season with a concussion.  Marcel Goc, Steve Sullivan, and Cal O’Reilly may not sound like big injuries—but these are some of Nashville’s most important forwards.  Still, Barry Trotz was able to have his entire team buy into their defense-first system and simply won games.  If anything, Trotz is a victim of  his own success. He’s done a great job for so long in Nashville that people just take it for granted.  But this season may have been his best.  The team was a contender in the tough Western Conference for one reason—they played like a team.

Honestly, he could win this award every season.  Sooner or later people will realize just how important Trotz is to the Nashville organization.  Take him away from the team and what do the Predators have?  On talent alone, they’re a lottery team.  With him, they’re a Western Conference contender.

James O’Brien’s case for Alain Vigneault:

In almost every team sport, people fall into “Bad News Bears” syndrome. Writers gravitate to the “big story,” so it only makes sense that they love it when a coach pushes an underdog bunch to relevance. Believe it or not, though, sometimes the best coach works with the best team and I believe that was the case with Vigneault this season.

His Canucks team lead the league in scoring, allowed the least amount of goals and was outstanding on the power play. They were a success by just about every regular season metric.

Looking past those impressive numbers, Vigneault navigated through defensive injury after injury and his team kept beating up opponents even after clinching everything. Aside from yawning through a couple games late in the season against Edmonton, the Canucks routinely beat desperate playoff teams when they had little to play for. That resilience through injuries and steady focus indicates a great group of players, for sure, but it also reveals a coach who captures his players’ attention.

Devils’ fun run of wins opens Jacques Lemaire’s mind to return next season


Breaking news: winning is fun.

Such a concept isn’t even lost on New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire, a bench boss often associated (fairly or not) with the fun-killing neutral zone trap. Earlier this season, the bright strategist reportedly stamped out any notion that he might return to coach the team next year. Yet with the undoubted fun that most come with winning often (the Devils are 9-1-2 in their last 12 games), Lemaire left the door to another season open just a crack.

Simply enough, Lemaire said he’ll discuss next season after this one concludes. Such a coy response might be almost as frustrating as it must have been to play against Lemaire’s late-90s teams once they earned a one-goal lead, but the 65-year-old former NHL player has earned the right to call his own shots.

To some extent, it seems like the Devils’ resurgence might not accomplish much beyond ruining their first chance at a top five draft pick in ages. Then again, New Jersey isn’t completely out of the playoff picture just yet, trailing the Carolina Hurricanes by 16 points with 29 games left.

Let’s make this much clear: there’s little doubt the team is marching back toward respectability with Lemaire. If he can manage an almost unthinkable run to the playoffs, it would be hard to deny him a Jack Adams award. Either way, the Devils will likely want him back in 2011-12.

Marc Crawford, John Tortorella should be in mid-season Jack Adams discussion

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While mid-season awards won’t hold much weight if things change drastically over the next 40-or-so games for each NHL team, it is an interesting pathway into the general hockey consensus. Both Joe and I provided our picks for the league’s trophies if the season ended this weekend, with two Southeast surprise smash success stories (Guy Boucher in Tampa Bay, Craig Ramsay in Atlanta) earning our imaginary Jack Adams trophies for coach of the (half) year.

Much like perennial “who was snubbed from the all-star team?” columns, sometimes it’s more interesting to see who didn’t make lists than it is to discuss who did. Considering the expansive nature of hockey discussion on the Internet, we cannot say that we read every mid-season awards article. That being said, beyond our choices, names such as Vancouver’s Allain Vigneault, Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma and Detroit’s Mike Babcock surfaced often along with Boucher and Ramsay.

There are two other coaches who haven’t gotten enough credit for their work through the halfway point of the 2010-11 season, though: Marc Crawford in Dallas and John Tortorella with the New York Rangers. We’ve heard a little more buzz for the former than the latter, but let’s briefly discuss why each coach would be worthy of some votes if they kept up the great work.

The case for Crawford

One thing Crawford and Tortorella have in common (beyond a Stanley Cup on their resumes, of course) is that I absolutely didn’t see either one’s success coming. Most of the hockey world viewed the Stars as a talented but flawed team that was strong on offense, awful on defense and fragile in net.

Maybe Crawford has gotten a little lucky with an unusually healthy Kari Lehtonen, but the former Avalanche coach is maximizing the potential of stud talents like Brad Richards to surprising success. The best part is that the Stars aren’t coasting on winnable games and coughing up tough ones either; they are currently on a seven game road winning streak.

Anyone who picked the Stars to lead the Pacific Division who isn’t a blind pom-pom waver can pat themselves on the back today, because few saw their impressive start coming.

Touting Tortorella

For everything Crawford accomplished, Tortorella’s work has been just as impressive (even if his results are more subtle). If there’s one word that jumps out regarding the Rangers’ solid start it’s “resiliency.”

Adding Saturday’s win against the St. Louis Blues to an observation made by Lou Korac, the Rangers are a stunning 10-1 in the second installment of back-to-back games this season. Furthermore, the Blueshirts are boisterous outside of Broadway, with a staggering 15-7-1 record on the road.

The best example of resiliency comes from looking at their roster, though. When you look at the club, there aren’t many players you’d point to as stars beyond great goalie Henrik Lundqvist and injury-prone stud Marian Gaborik. Don’t get me wrong, most NHL teams would love to have guys such as Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal and Ryan Callahan. They just don’t jump out as stars.

Yet Tortorella is making it work, as Dubinsky is the only Rangers player vaguely approaching a point per game pace (36 points in 43 games). Coming in third in the Atlantic and sixth in the East might not seem that impressive, but they’re 10 games over .500 with a shaky but spirited group of hockey players. That, to me, speaks to Tortorella’s motivational and teaching abilities.


Again, it’s too early to talk about Jack Adams (and other trophy) possibilities for anything more than fun. Still, voters and fans shouldn’t forget the impressive work by Crawford and Tortorella so far this season.