NHL Awards 2013: Top Contenders for the Jack Adams Award During Shortened Season

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

NHL Awards 2013: Top Contenders for the Jack Adams Award During Shortened Season

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    There's a bias to the Jack Adams Award in the NHL and nearly every coaching award handed out in professional sports.

    Instead of going to the best coach in a particular sport, the award tends to go to the coach who does the most with the limited talent on hand.

    None of the last seven head coaches whose teams won the Stanley Cup have been named the best coach in the NHL.

    The last coach who got that "double" was John Tortorella, when he led the underdog Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup.

    The 2013 season is unique. A 48-game season will make it both easier and tougher for coaches who are in a race to make the playoffs.

    Talent will rise to the top over an 82-game season, but it may not have a chance over just 48 games.

    The 2013 Jack Adams Award just may go to the coach who gets his team to play its best hockey earliest in the season.

Michel Therrien, Montreal Canadiens

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    Michel Therrien has taken over as head coach of the most honored franchise in the history of the NHL.

    The Canadiens were a last-place disaster in 2011-12 and ownership got rid of the team's management and brought in Marc Bergevin as general manager. Bergevin subsequently hired Therrien, who looked at the roster and realized things weren't as dark in Montreal as they seemed a year ago.

    Therrien has helped give the Canadiens a disciplined and straightforward system, and in the early part of the 2013 season the team has embraced the change.

    The Canadiens have gotten away to a 6-3-0 start and would have been in first place in the Northeast Division if they had been victorious over the Boston Bruins Feb. 6 at the Bell Center. After Montreal took 1-0 lead in the second period, the Bruins scored two third-period goals to secure the win.

    But that's how close the two teams are. Montreal is getting excellent goaltending from Carey Price, the defense is active and blocking shots and the team has decent goal scoring from Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole and Tomas Plekanec.

    Therrien is a solid Jack Adams Award contender.

Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks

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    There is a ton of heat on Joel Quenneville in Chicago.

    He will always have a special place in the team's history after coaching the Blackhawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup, but two consecutive first-round defeats have not been good for his resume.

    Management is somewhat impatient and so is team's the fan base.

    So, Quenneville came into the 2013 shortened season knowing that status quo was not good enough. He has gotten excellent results in the early part of the season.

    The Blackhawks are the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss through 10 games (8-0-2). Quenneville is getting a sensational effort from stars like Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane.

    When a team's best players are performing at that level, a coach has a chance to contend for the Jack Adams Award.

Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Guy Boucher is a somewhat controversial figure.

    Some other coaches and scouts around the NHL don't like the defensive trap that he employs from time to time.

    Boucher is not out to win a popularity contest. He is out to build a consistent winner in Tampa Bay.

    During the 2010-11 season, Boucher led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals before they were beaten 1-0 in the seventh game by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the third round.

    That defeat hung with the Lightning last year, but there is no self-pity this year. The Lightning have gotten out of the gate with a 6-3-0 record and they appear to be one of the more difficult teams to beat in the Eastern Conference.

    They have stars in Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier and they are getting sensational defensive play from former Canuck Sami Salo and Victor Hedman. If goalie Anders Lindback can play consistently during the 48-game run, Boucher will be a prime contender for coach of the year.

Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks

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    The Anaheim Ducks appeared to be a real mess at the start of the season.

    Not only did the Ducks finish 13th in the Western Conference last year, the team had a slew of free agents that appeared to be planning their escape at the end of the season.

    That's usually not the formula for success. Yet the Ducks came roaring out of the gate with a 7-3 win at Vancouver in the opening game and they have not slowed down since. They are 7-1-1 in their first nine games and they are difficult to beat under any circumstances.

    It will be challenging for the Ducks to maintain their high level, but if they can, head coach Bruce Boudreau might be able to walk away with the Jack Adams Award.

    If that's going to happen, he needs goalie Viktor Fasth to continue to play superbly. Through his first four games, Fasth is 4-0-0 with a 0.98 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage.

Claude Julien, Boston Bruins

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    Claude Julien won the Jack Adams Award following the 2008-09 season when the Boston Bruins went 53-19-10, had a 116-point season and were the top-ranked team in the Eastern Conference.

    It's usually quite difficult to win the award a second time. Pat Burns, Scotty Bowman, Jacques Demers, Pat Quinn and Jacques Lemaire are the only coaches to do it.

    Julien is never going to be accused of making Vince Lombardi-type speeches, but he does everything else a great coach can do. He is an excellent strategist, he knows how to work young players into the lineup with efficiency and he knows how and when to make line changes.

    In the Bruins 2-1 road victory over the Montreal Canadiens Feb. 6, Julien put Tyler Seguin on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic at the start of the third period and the Bruins quickly scored two goals to seize control of the game.

    With Julien making the right moves, the Bruins have gotten off to a sharp start and are at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks

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    After starting off the season with seven straight victories, the Sharks are 0-2-1 in their last three games.

    Nevertheless, San Jose has been one of the most impressive teams this season.

    It did not look like the Sharks were going to be a big factor in 2013. During the offseason, many observers thought the Sharks were an older team and the window of opportunity was closing on them.

    Todd McLellan made sure veterans Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton heard that. The Sharks veteran players have been sensational and that has allowed McLellan to put his name up for Jack Adams Award consideration.