Dave Lozo's Bag Skate: Dan Bylsma and the Jack Adams Award He Will Not Win

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Dave Lozo's Bag Skate: Dan Bylsma and the Jack Adams Award He Will Not Win
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The Jack Adams Award is all about expectations and perceptions, no matter how flawed or accurate they may be. If the perception of a particular hockey team before a season is that it won't be successful, those lowered expectations make that team's success seem all the more exceptional and surprising. Throw in an injury to a key player and the award is probably yours.

If the hockey world believes your team can contend for a Stanley Cup and then your team wins 50 games, it's a lot harder to be named the NHL's best coach. If the hockey world believes your team won't be that great and it shows marked improvement over the previous season, the odds of that team's coach winning the Jack Adams a lot better.

This season, the award is going to either Jon Cooper of Tampa Bay or Patrick Roy of Colorado. The Lightning had 40 points in 48 games in 2013 and will reach the playoffs in 2014, despite missing Steven Stamkos for three months; the Avalanche had 39 points in 48 games in 2013 and haven't reached the postseason since 2010 but are fighting for the NHL's best record.

Both coaches are fine choices and are having tailor-made seasons for winning a Jack Adams and you'll get no argument from me against either Cooper or Roy winning.

But you will get an argument from me for Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma winning the Jack Adams.

Jack Adams Award Winners Since 2009-10
Season Winner Points improvement Key injuries
2009-10 Dave Tippett +28 Upshall
2010-11 Dan Bylsma +5 Crosby, Malkin
2011-12 Ken Hitchcock +22 Perron, McDonald, Steen
2013 Paul MacLean +4* Karlsson, Spezza, Anderson

NHL (*pro-rated for 82 games)

Is he going to win? Absolutely not, but he has one of the strongest cases for the award in recent years. The adversity the Penguins have overcome this season to likely finish second in the East is practically unrivaled.

Consider everything working against Bylsma, who won the award in 2010-11 as the Penguins played half the season without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin but still had 106 points. 

• Right or wrong, Bylsma has a reputation as a poor in-game coach. Whether it's matchups or adjusting to situations that arise during a game, there are those who believe Bylsma isn't very good. This is a coach who has already won a Jack Adams and a Stanley Cup, but that's the perception of Bylsma. There's a segment of the hockey world that perceives him to be a subpar coach.

• He has Crosby and Malkin, the two best players in the world, almost completely healthy all season. Yeah, Malkin was just lost for three weeks because of a foot injury, but it's been essentially 60-plus regular-season games with two of the best players in the world.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

• The Penguins haven't had fewer than 99 points in a season with Bylsma as coach, not including last season when the Penguins had 72 points in 48 games, a 123-point pace for an 82-game season. The expectations are at a point with the Penguins where 100-point seasons (the Penguins have 97 points now) aren't impressive; they are commonplace and don't wow voters.

But the 2013-14 Pittsburgh Penguins might be having the most impressive 100-point season in NHL history, and Bylsma deserves a whole lot of the credit for it.

The Penguins have been ravaged, decimated and pulverized by injuries this season. "Every team deals with injuries," you'll probably mutter to yourself after reading that. Sure, that's true, and while the Lightning went three months without Stamkos, the Penguins have been without all of their superstars (except Crosby) and key defensemen for extended periods of time.

Consider these factoids from Adam Gretz, who is a freelance writer whose byline you can find in a few places.

Through games played on March 25, the Penguins have lost 439 man games to injury. The Detroit Red Wings have lost the second-most at 351, which is why Mike Babcock's name is popping up lately in Jack Adams talk. No other team has lost more than 300 man games to injury this season.

And it's not as though the Penguins lost Robert Bortuzzo and Craig Adams (no offense, guys) for the season after the opener and that man-games-lost figure is padded. The players the Penguins have lost to injury (and suspension) would've have sunk just about every coach in the NHL.

• Malkin missed nine games earlier this season with a lower-body injury, and his latest foot injury will likely bring the regular-season total to 20 games missed.

• Pascal Dupuis, the Penguins' third-leading scorer last season, was lost for the season in December and will miss 43 games.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

• James Neal, who scored 40 goals two seasons ago, has missed 18 games with various injuries and another five games for kneeing Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head.

• Kris Letang, the team's top offensive threat at the blue line, missed 19 games with different injuries before having a stroke that could cost him the rest of the season. Should he not return, he will have missed 48 games this season.

• Paul Martin, perhaps the Penguins' most well-rounded and complete defenseman, missed 23 games with a broken leg and has been out since Feb. 7 because of a hand injury suffered during the Sochi Olympics.

• Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi, thought to be key to the Penguins in their roles as stay-at-home-defensemen, have missed eight and 29 games, respectively, with injuries.

None of that includes the loss of Tomas Vokoun before the season, as he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his hip and is unlikely to play in a single game this season. It's almost a forgotten problem for the Penguins, who had to rely on Vokoun in last year's playoffs as Marc-Andre Fleury once again imploded like that submarine in The Hunt For Red October that was chasing Marko Ramius.

There were no guarantees Fleury would find his form this year, but he has been steady all season. Bylsma had no choice but to use Jeff Zatkoff in the role of primary backup, and that's worked out magnificently. Zatkoff is 12-4-1 as Bylsma has deftly picked his spots to use a goaltender who had as many career NHL starts before this season as Marko Ramius.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sorry. The Hunt For Red October was on earlier Tuesday.

Only in a world where expectations and perceptions are this far out of whack does Bylsma's name rarely get mentioned in Jack Adams conversation. Cooper survived without Stamkos? Babcock has gotten by without his two best centers for a few weeks? Bylsma survived with empty third and fourth lines and Matt Niskanen as his No. 1 defenseman for nearly an entire season!

There's no snark here for the job Roy has done. That's impressive no matter your expectations or perceptions of the Avalanche.

Truthfully, the jobs done by Cooper and Babcock are also impressive in their own right. But there's something to be said about what Bylsma has accomplished this season even if he has Crosby, and 100-point seasons have become as common in Pittsburgh as disappointing postseasons. 

If Bylsma deserved the Jack Adams in 2010 for a 100-point season without the services of Crosby, then he deserves the Jack Adams in 2014 for a 100-point season without the services of almost everyone except Crosby.

 

FIVE LETTERS

(If you’d like to ask a question for the weekly mailbag, you can reach me via email at dave111177@gmail.com, fire your query at me via Twitter at @DaveLozo or leave a question in the comments section for next week.)

Dave,

Do you think Ryan McDonagh should be considered a candidate for the Norris trophy? Offensively his numbers are comparable to Suter. Defensively I think he is on par with some of the best in the game. I would love to hear your take. Keep up the good work!

Cheers,

Steve

My initial reaction to the question was a deep eye roll, but Steve may be on to something here. Why not Ryan McDonagh for the Norris Trophy?

Some bullet points on McDonagh's season with the Rangers:

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

• He averages about 25 minutes a game, 13th-most in the league.

• He's tied for fifth in goals (13) and 11th in points (42) among defensemen.

• He has faced the 15th-toughest quality of competition (29.6) among defensemen.

• He starts 33.2 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone, and his Corsi relative (-4.1) and Fenwick relative (-3.4) percentages in close situations are negative.

He's a very good defenseman and a No. 1 on a lot of teams, but he's not quite *the* No. 1 defenseman in the league just yet. Can he eventually become a Norris Trophy winner? Absolutely.

But he's never going to have jaw-dropping offensive numbers like Erik Karlsson, so he needs to be in that 60-point range and have a reputation (this award is primarily won on reputation, fairly or not) for being a shut-down defenseman.

He's still only 24 years old, so there's plenty of time for him to develop his game and build his reputation.

 

Hi Dave!

Where do you rank Nick Lidström in the history of dmen?

Keep your Twitter flashy! Or as Kanye (or 50 cent) told me: go ahead switch your style up and if they hate let EM hate and watch the money pile up.

schnell L

That e-mail comes from Sweden and usually I'll delete excess stuff and boil it down to the question, but I felt it was important to let this gentleman express himself through the majesty of Fitty's lyrics.

Dave Reginek/Getty Images

I'm not very big on comparing players across generations of sport. I have never once witnessed Bobby Orr play a hockey game, but everyone who did watch him tells me he is the best to ever play the position. He revolutionized it, they say, and paved the way for those who followed to be more offensive from the back end.

I can just look at statistics to get a feel for the last point, but I've never been comfortable judging players from different eras. It's unfair. 

Consider how different the NHL is today compared to just 10 years ago, before all the rule changes that opened up the game. Now think about how 20 years ago there were only 26 teams in the NHL. Twenty years before that, there were only 16 teams in the NHL.

Bobby Orr's first NHL season was six years before that, when there were only six teams in the NHL. How can anyone draw fair comparisons when things have changed so much?

But since you asked, I'd have to put Lidstrom a notch below Orr. 

I'm fully focused, man, my money on my mind. Got a mill' out the deal, and I'm still on the grind.

 

I'm pretty sure you're asking me if we're better off having the Red Wings finish eighth instead of the Leafs, for the Wings will give the Bruins a better fight in what is essentially a 1-8 first-round series in the East.

It does not matter. The NHL could decree that the Wings and Leafs must combine their teams to form a sort of Voltron hockey team, and the Bruins would still win in six games. The Bruins aren't losing to anyone in the first round of this year's playoffs unless they suffer two or three key injuries between now and the postseason.

 

I was of the belief that trading Seguin was a bad idea, but the Bruins are arguably the best team in the NHL with the team as it is comprised right now, so it's tough to say they'd be better off with him. Yeah, Seguin is fourth in the NHL in points as a member of the Dallas Stars, but the Bruins lead the East in points. 

Maybe four of five years down the road if Seguin is a Hart Trophy winner and a perennial top-five scorer while the Bruins have gone to ruins, yeah, we can revisit this. But if the Bruins win a Stanley Cup a year after trading Seguin, it will be tough to say bad things about the trade even if it all falls apart five years from now in Boston.

 

 

 

Believe it or not, I love Internet comments more than anything on the Internet, and that includes kittens and sites that let you play old Nintendo games.

I read the comments on everything I write, and they never fail to make me laugh whether they are positive or negative. The best of the best are always the ones from people telling a writer how bad he or she is while at the same time admitting they have not read the article.

Here's the thing about our power rankings at Bleacher Report—myself and the esteemed Jonathan Willis rotate writing them every week, so that's why you'll see our names at the beginning of the slideshow.

We try to dig up some nuggets about each team so you have something to read when you click through and see where your favorite hockey team is ranked. Power rankings are generally fun to write, and they are supposed to be fun to read.

The issue that seems to be confounding many of the loyal readers of this fine web site is the rankings and the belief that either myself or Jonathan are deciding them entirely on our own, free from any rules or constraints, and we are out to get your favorite team.

Despite us writing at the top of the slideshow that the power rankings are determined via vote by six or seven hockey writers every week, people get mad that Willis or I are single-handedly out to prevent their teams from being higher in the rankings.

Sometimes my poll doesn't reflect what the rest of the voters think and vice versa. You see, we have these things called opinions that sometimes conflict with the others who are voting.

For instance, perhaps I had the Flyers ranked in the top 10 in my own personal poll and ahead of the Rangers this week, yet others did not, hence the reason why the Rangers finished higher in the rankings that had my byline on them.

Did I cry about it for the next 16 hours? Or did I shrug with indifference over the fact that others disagreed with me and then go about my day?

Power rankings are supposed to be fun and not taken seriously, you guys. If they are causing you the same level of anger as losing a loved one or having your car stolen, you should look to the power rankings in your heart to truly understand why you are getting so upset.

 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.

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