It’s been a fruitful couple of weeks for Pittsburgh Penguins on the NHL award front, with Sidney Crosby (Hart, Lindsay, Masterton), Kris Letang (Norris) and Ray Shero (GM of year) all named finalists for various trophies since the regular season ended.
This time, however, a seemingly worthy candidate was left off a shortlist.
The NHL announced its top three vote-getters for its Jack Adams coach of the year award Friday morning, and Dan Bylsma was left off. Leaguewide broadcasters dubbed Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville and Paul MacLean of Ottawa as finalists for the prize. The winner will be revealed in late June during the Stanley Cup Final.
Each Jack Adams finalist has a great case for winning. Boudreau guided the Ducks to a Pacific Division championship in his first full season with Anaheim, outpacing the Stanley Cup-holding L.A. Kings in the process. Quenneville’s Blackhawks compiled an NHL-best 36-7-5 record and 77 points, the only team with a better total than the Penguins’ 72. MacLean’s tactics helped the Senators make the playoffs despite injuries to starting goalie Craig Anderson and Norris Trophy defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, who won a Northeast Division title in his return to Montreal, joins Bylsma and perhaps Columbus coach Todd Richards as the gentlemen with the biggest gripes for being left out of the top three.
Bylsma won the Jack Adams in 2011 after the Penguins overcame season-ending injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to nonetheless finish fourth in the Eastern Conference. His credentials that year match MacLean’s this season, filling the role of the “defying adversity” candidate that always seems to be on the Jack Adams ballot.
Boudreau embodies the “dramatic improvement” coach that voters love, as the Ducks went from 13th in the West to second. That leaves the “general excellence” slot for Quenneville to squeeze into.
I have a dream that someday guys like Detroit’s Mike Babcock – who’s never won the award despite being one of the consensus best coaches in the game – get nominated regularly. As Babcock, Bylsma and Quenneville can attest, meeting lofty expectations is difficult, maybe even tougher than sneaking up on teams as the overlooked underdog.
For me, the coaches who keep talented teams on an even keel deserve as much acknowledgement as the so-called “turnaround artists” like Therrien and Boudreau. Those guys tend to wear out their welcomes, and wouldn’t you rather maintain continuity at such an important position?
I know I would.