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.