While few NHL fans and observers would dispute that Mike Babcock is likely the best coach in the league, he will not be a contender for this year’s Jack Adams Award.
This award is given to the coach who is judged to have contributed the most to his team’s success and is voted on annually by the NHL’s Broadcasters’ Association (per NHL.com).
Oftentimes, coaches are selected on the basis of an impressive turnaround by their club.
Other times, coaches are acknowledged for having dealt well with adversity or if their team has been dominant over the course of a full season.
There are six or seven coaches that fit that description this year, but I believe the following three contenders have separated themselves from the pack in 2013. Honorable mentions go to Michel Therrien, Dan Bylsma, Claude Julien and Randy Carlyle.
The Ottawa Senators have had a successful season despite some injuries to key players such as Norris-trophy winner Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Craig Anderson.
The Senators haven’t played as well of late, but MacLean has had them playing an up-tempo game as well as being defensively responsible for the bulk of the season.
MacLean worked under the tutelage of Babcock for several seasons and was a great NHLer in his own right.
He understands the nuances of the game and has brought a puck-possession philosophy to Canada’s capital city over the past two seasons.
Still, the Senators will have to make the playoffs for MacLean to win the Jack Adams.
Joel Quenneville is another former player, but unlike MacLean, he has won this award as the coach of the St. Louis Blues.
Now the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, he guided the club to their record-setting unbeaten streak at the start of the season.
The Blackhawks have already clinched a playoff spot and are the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup in 2013.
Quenneville has always been good with line-matching and has adapted very well to NHL rule changes over the past decade.
While some critics will argue that it’s relatively simple to guide a talented team like Chicago, I think it can be challenging to keep such a team happy and cohesive. Just ask Scotty Bowman or Glen Sather, who had similar tasks in the 1970’s and 1980’s respectively.
The Blackhawks are very tough on home ice, with much of this owed to Quenneville’s ability to manage the last change and use the energy of some of the NHL’s best fans to help motivate his talented team.
Bruce Boudreau is another former NHL player and truly understands what it takes to play the game at the highest level on a nightly basis.
Boudreau has won the Jack Adams Award as the coach of the Washington Capitals and it is tough to bet against him to win it this year.
The Anaheim Ducks boast one of the league’s best records and have regained much of the form that saw them win the Stanley Cup in 2007.
Boudreau is often mentioned as a "player’s coach" in that he listens to his players and responds to their needs, versus pushing them constantly with little regard for their personal needs and wants.
Like all great coaches, he is highly competitive, and his will to win is reflected in the Ducks’ unwillingness to be outworked on most nights.
Boudreau is a front-runner to win the Jack Adams Award and the Ducks are poised to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs due to his quality leadership.