Winning the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year seems to be easier than surviving winning it.
Over the years, coaches nominated for the award have joked about it being better for job security if they didn’t actually win, and it’s because usually the coach of the year is the one who makes a silk puck out of a sow’s ear of a roster. It’s rare that coaches of the most talented teams win coach of the year.
Fair or not, the award -- which is voted on by the league’s broadcasters -- has become one that honors those coaches who coax, prod, yell, needle and push all the buttons at their disposal to get their less-talented squads to overachieve.
And often when a team overachieves, what follows is at best an even season and at worst a complete drop into underachievement.
Is that the coach’s fault? Discuss among yourselves.
Since the 2004-05 lockout, 10 coaches have won the award. All 10 are still coaching in the NHL. (Paul MacLean, who won with the Ottawa Senators in 2013 is an assistant coach to another former Jack Adams winner Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim, so he counts.) But only five -- Claude Julien, Ken Hitchcock, Dave Tippett, Bob Hartley and Patrick Roy -- are still coaching the team with which they won the award.
I raise the issue because it’s been interesting to watch the struggles of the teams whose coaches won the past two Jack Adams Awards.
Hartley was the runaway winner of last season's award after his Calgary Flames defied skeptics and the hockey gods to not just make the playoffs but also to win a playoff round for the first time since the team went to the finals in 2004. This season, in the face of significant expectations in Calgary, there is less euphoria and more angst as the Flames’ goaltending has been atrocious and the overall team play not much better, with the Flames going 4-9-1.
Two years ago, Roy, a Hall of Famer who won a Cup in Colorado playing for Hartley, took the Colorado Avalanche to the Central Division crown and ended up winning coach of the year in a landslide in his first year as an NHL head coach. The Avs missed the playoffs last season and are looking like a lottery team a month into this season at 4-8-1.
Are the cases similar? Yes and no.
A step back could have been predictable for both, but given that Hartley is a career coach and has shown an aptitude for success throughout his career, we feel safe in saying he is a bona fide NHL coach.
Can we say the same about Roy, who parlayed his pedigree, his connection to the Avalanche organization and his success as a junior coach in Quebec City into this job? Nope. In fact, there’s considerable pressure on Roy (or there should be) to reverse the trend in Denver and prove that he is, in fact, a viable NHL coach and that the Jack Adams was not a very bright flash in the pan.