In a year where a number of coaches could’ve been nominated for the Jack Adams Award, the NHL whittled its candidate list down to three today:
St. Louis’ Ken Hitchcock, Ottawa’s Paul MacLean and the New York Rangers’ John Tortorella.
A look at the finalists…
The NHL’s oldest coach (60), Hitch took the Blues job on Nov. 6 from Davis Payne, who’d guided the team to a mediocre 6-7-0 start — putting St. Louis 14th in the conference. What transpired after the takeover was one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in franchise history, as the Blues went 43-15-11 to finish the year atop the Central Division (first win since 1999-2000) and second overall in the Western Conference.
This is Hitchcock’s fourth time as a Jack Adams finalists (1997, 1998, 1999, all with Dallas) — he’s still looking for his first win, however.
The rookie head coach had a tall order heading into 2011-12, inheriting a team that finished 13th in the East the year prior while working with a roster full of young, inexperienced players. This makes what MacLean did all the more impressive — he led the Sens to a 92-point season (18 more than last year) and got Ottawa into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
With the nomination, MacLean becomes the first Ottawa head coach become a Jack Adams finalist since Jacques Martin in 2003.
The 2004 Jack Adams winner (he also won the Stanley Cup that year with Tampa Bay), Tortorella took the Rangers to first place in the Eastern Conference since 1993-94 while overcoming numerous obstacles along the way. New York opened the season with a four-countries-in-10-days trip, then went on a Western Canada road swing for four games, then finally played their first home game of the year on Oct. 27. Throw in the hoopla surrounding the Winter Classic and HBO’s 24/7, and Tortorella’s accomplishments seem even more impressive.
With the nomination, Torts becomes the first Rangers head coach to be nominated for the Jack Adams since Tom Renney in 2006.