The race for the NHL's Jack Adams Award as the Coach of the Year remains wide open.
With roughly 15 games left in the regular season, there are still several worthy candidates for the three finalists who will invited to the NHL awards in Las Vegas this June.
The award usually goes to the coach that leads their team to a surprisingly good season. With so many unexpected teams still in contention for the playoffs, the contenders are changing on a weekly basis.
The St. Louis Blues presently own the best record in the NHL. Would they be anywhere near there if Ken Hitchcock hadn't taken over behind the bench in November? Probably not.
Hitchcock's disciplined, defense-first style was just what the doctor ordered for a young Blues team that was underachieving under Davis Payne earlier this season.
The fact that Hitch didn't start the season as coach of the Blues shouldn't be held against him, and he has to be considered the favorite for the Adams as of right now.
The New York Rangers are first overall in the Eastern Conference, and Coach John Tortorella is certainly a big reason why.
The emotional Rangers head coach has done a good job of minimizing distractions (Sean Avery playing in New York) and helping new players integrate into the team's system (Brad Richards, Carl Hagelin).
He has also helped younger players like Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi blossom into solid NHL players.
Another great thing about Tortorella: he's never dull. Whether it's his passionate arguments with referees during games or his colorful press conferences afterward, Tortorella always makes watching the Rangers interesting.
The Ottawa Senators were picked by most experts to finish well out of playoff contention this season. In fact, The Hockey News picked the Senators dead last in the Eastern Conference in their season preview.
Now, with just 15 games to play, Ottawa is 11 games over .500 and has a pretty firm grip on a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Head coach Paul MacLean is a major reason for the Sens success. The former Red Wings assistant has inspired a generally young Senators team to play solid team hockey. Young defenseman Erik Karlsson has also blossomed under MacLean's guidance.
MacLean has helped his young charges overcome adversity. When starting goalie Craig Anderson suffered a freak hand injury, MacLean didn't let his team panic, and they're still fighting to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With the Pittsburgh Penguins' recent winning streak, Dan Bylsma has put himself back in the thick of the race for the Adams Award. Bylsma was last year's winner—one season after leading his club to another Stanley Cup.
Bylsma has again helped the Penguins overcome injuries to contend for the Atlantic Division lead. They were just six points out of first place despite the fact that Sidney Crosby has played only a handful of games this season. Several other important Penguins have missed time due to injury including Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and Tyler Kennedy.
If Crosby's return helps the Penguins to a strong finish, Bylsma's chances to win a second straight Adams Award would increase significantly.
There are other contenders for the award who have a chance to become finalists with a strong finish.
Kevin Dineen has led the Florida Panthers to contention in the Southeast Division despite having a roster that was almost completely overhauled during the offseason.
A recent slump by the Coyotes has hurt Dave Tippett's chances although nobody expected much from the Coyotes to being with. If they manage to qualify for the playoffs, Tippett could become a finalist.
The Winnipeg Jets are also in the race for the playoffs, and Claude Noel deserves credit.
The team's move from Atlanta hasn't slowed down the Jets who have exceeded expectations this year. Again, Noel will get some consideration if his club manages to reach the postseason.
With 15 games to go, the race for the Adams remains wide open.