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NHL Power Rankings: Coaches Who Could Take Home the Jack Adams Award

Alison MyersCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2011

NHL Power Rankings: Coaches Who Could Take Home the Jack Adams Award

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    Every year, it seems like there are one or more teams who take the NHL by surprise or perform even better than they were predicted to.

    The players may be on the ice doing all the hard work. However, they can all attribute part of their success to one man: their coach.

    Coaches have a chance to be awarded for their success with the Jack Adams Award. This trophy is given to the coach who has been deemed to be the biggest reason why his team has performed well during the season.

    If the season were to end today, here is who I feel could be in the running to win this award.

Brent Sutter, Calgary Flames

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    Sutter is in his second season as the Flames head coach.

    Under his reign last year, Calgary went 40-32-10. They ended up with 90 points but finished in 10th place in a tight Western Conference and did not qualify for the postseason.

    Things are a little different this year. The Flames' current record is 36-27-9, good for 81 points and eighth place in the West. Calgary is trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009, when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in five games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

    From December 28 to the start of March, Calgary improved their win percentage by .168 percentage points and accumulated 18 more wins.

    Under Sutter, several players have improved or matched high production levels from previous seasons.

    For example, Alex Tanguay has completely turned things around after posting 47 points in 2009-10. He now has 56 points through 69 games and saved himself from declining statistics for a fourth straight seasons.

    Meanwhile, team captain Jarome Iginla has 68 points, good for 10th in the NHL. He also posted his 10th 30-goal season and is just one of 10 NHL players to do this.

    Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff currently has 32 wins, the sixth 30-win season of his career. He is also fourth in the NHL with six shutouts.

    Prediction: Not likely. The Flames have not made enough of the total turnaround the voting committee goes for, and they are just as close to being out of the playoffs. They are currently on a three-game losing skid, so they need to turn things back around.

Marc Crawford, Dallas Stars

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    Crawford is in his second season with the Stars. Last year, he guided Dallas to a record of 37-31-14 for 88 points and 12th in the Western Conference.

    However, if the Stars stay on track, Crawford could lead them to their first playoff appearance since 2008. They are currently seventh in the West with a record of 37-25-8 for 82 points.

    Crawford had to make do without top scorer Brad Richards for roughly three weeks, but in that time he got contributions from several players.

    Loui Eriksson, who is second on Dallas in scoring, recently put up nine points in nine games. He has 63 points so far and has matched his output from the 2008-09 season. He is also eighth in the NHL with 10 power play goals.

    Jamie Benn has already improved on his 2009-10 total of 44 points, even if only by a very little bit. He currently has 45 points on the year.

    Meanwhile, defenseman Alex Goligoski, who was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, has eight points and a plus-four in 11 games since coming to Texas.

    Kari Lehtonen, who is in his first season as the Stars' starting goaltender, is 29-20-8 with a .914 save percentage and 2.61 GAA. His win total is eighth in the league.

    Prediction: Possible. The Stars are a talented squad who stand a real chance at getting their first crack at the playoffs in three years.

Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings

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    Babcock is arguably the best active coach in the NHL, and it should come as no surprise, as he is the leader of one of the NHL's most storied and successful franchises.

    If the season were to end today, the Wings would have a record of 41-20-8 for 90 points and first place in the Central Division. Babcock would have led the team to its fifth division title in six years since he became the head coach at the start of the 2005-06 campaign.

    This season, Babcock had to work without top forward Pavel Datsyuk, who missed 19 games with an injury. But despite missing significant time, Datsyuk has put up 56 points in 50 games, an average of 1.12 points per game.

    Babcock was also without veteran defenseman Brian Rafalski, who also missed 19 games. But again, Rafalski has been productive, posting 37 points and a plus-14 rating in his 50 games.

    He is also still getting solid production out of team captain and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom is 40 years old, but he still has 55 points in 69 games and is third among NHL defensemen in scoring.

    Prediction: In the running. When the Wings have had as much success as they have, it is hard to imagine them not getting any awards, and Babcock will at least be considered for the Jack Adams.

Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey Devils

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    Right now, Jacques Lemaire is one of my favorites to take home the Jack Adams.

    Lemaire came out of retirement to take over the Devils, the team he guided to the 1995 Stanley Cup, when John MacLean was fired back on December 23. At the time of MacLean's firing, the Devils were 9-22-2 and in last place in the Eastern Conference.

    But things have changed for the better.

    Since Lemaire took over, the Devils have gone 24-10-2, which gives them a current record of 33-32-4. They have 70 points and sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. They are six points behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres for the final playoff spot in the East.

    He has gotten the best out of players like forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who now leads New Jersey with 26 goals and had a 12-game point streak earlier in the season. He recently posted five points in three games to kick off March.

    Martin Brodeur, who had a slow start caused by injuries and poor play, has silenced the critics who have suggested he is near the end.

    Brodeur may not be getting any younger, but his numbers have gotten better. He is 15-2-1 in his last 18 games and has brought his record up to a .500 mark of 20-20. He has a .902 save percentage and 2.51 GAA. 

    Prediction: Finalist. I feel the Devils would have to make the playoffs for Lemaire to actually win, but even if they don't, his work has been nothing short of remarkable. Ignoring it would be crazy.

Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Laviolette came into Philadelphia last year after John Stevens was fired. Under his guidance, the Flyers finished the season with a record of 41-35-6 and made the playoffs as the seventh seed in the East.

    The Flyers then went on a magical playoff run where they eliminated the favored Devils, came back from a 3-0 series deficit to knock out the Boston Bruins and ended the Montreal Canadiens' Cinderella story. They went to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1997 but lost to the Blackhawks in six games.

    This year, the Flyers are proving that they will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the postseason.

    Philadelphia's record currently stands at 43-19-7. The Flyers have 93 points and are first in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. If the regular season ended today, they would claim their first division title since the 2003-04 campaign.

    The Flyers have seen significant improvement in Claude Giroux, who has had an 18-point improvement from last year. He currently has 65 points as opposed to his 47 points last season, and he leads the team in scoring.

    Jeff Carter has posted his third 30-goal season, and his 32 goals are second in the league. He is second on the Flyers with 60 points in 67 games.

    Philadelphia is also getting solid goaltending play from first-year pro Sergei Bobrovsky. He is 25-11-5 with a .915 save percentage and 2.58 GAA.

    Laviolette has also coached a significant number of games without top defenseman Chris Pronger. Pronger missed time early in the season to recover from offseason foot surgery, and earlier this week he had another operation to put a pin in his fractured hand.

    Despite all of this, Pronger has 25 points in 50 games and leads the Flyers with 22:09 of ice time per game.

    Prediction: Possibility. The Flyers have had a mediocre start to March with a 3-3-1 record, and they have to be careful not to get complacent if they want to keep the top seed. If they keep sliding, part of this will fall on Laviolette's shoulders.

Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Call me biased all you want. But if your team were playing without its two superstars and still maintained one of the top five seeds in the conference, you would be praising your coach too, right?

    Bylsma has been with the Penguins since taking over for Michel Therrien in 2008-09. He had the interim tag removed from his title after leading Pittsburgh to an 18-3-4 finish and a first-round playoff victory over the Flyers. The Penguins ultimately won their third Stanley Cup that year.

    The Penguins are on pace for their second 100-point season under Bylsma. They have a current record of 41-22-8 for 90 points and fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Last year, they went 47-28-7 for 101 points and another fourth-place finish.

    This season, the Pens have assembled an infirmary more than a full team on the bench. Evgeni Malkin is out for the season with a major knee injury, and Sidney Crosby hasn't played in over two months after suffering a concussion. They have also seen other key players such as Chris Kunitz and Brooks Orpik miss time after taking their own bruises.

    As a result, the Penguins have had to call up players from their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. I won't bother naming all of those players, but you can look at the WBS roster if you want to know, as I can guarantee you that the majority have been in Pittsburgh at some point.

    Bylsma boasts the best regular season win percentage in franchise history (.659) and is tied for Scotty Bowman with the most postseason victories (23). He was signed to a three-year contract extension last week.

    Prediction: In the running. Again, yell at me and say I'm biased if that's what you want to do. However, the Penguins were not known for scoring depth beyond Crosby and Malkin prior to the arrivals of James Neal and Alexei Kovalev. Bylsma helped a bunch of AHL no-names keep the Penguins a top team, and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Boucher was hired this past offseason under new general manager Steve Yzerman.

    At the time, it seemed like quite a gamble to hire Boucher. This was his first NHL coaching job, and although he had success in the AHL and QMJHL, could he handle the NHL?

    Well, that's not even a question anymore.

    Last year, Tampa did not even make the playoffs, posting a record of 34-36-12 for 80 points and 12th in the Eastern Conference.

    This season, Boucher has helped the Lightning do a complete 180. They are currently 39-22-9 for 87 points and fifth in the conference. They could make the postseason for the first time since 2007.

    Boucher has helped along players like Steven Stamkos, who once again leads the NHL with 43 goals. He won last year's Rocket Richard Trophy along with Sidney Crosby when the two tied for 51 goals. He is also second in the league with 86 points.

    Martin St. Louis is 35 years old but is still a top player for Tampa. He currently has 83 points in 70 games and has already posted his fifth consecutive 80-point season and sixth of his career.

    Newcomer Eric Brewer has also been a good addition. The defenseman who came from the St. Louis Blues has 31 hits through nine games and averages 21:13 of ice time per game.

    In goal, Dwayne Roloson has been able to turn around his season since being traded from the New York Islanders. He was 6-13 on Long Island, but he has posted a 14-9-2 record with four shutouts since he arrived.

    Boucher is currently the youngest active coach in the NHL. Last year, he won the AHL Coach of the Year Award as the bench boss of the Hamilton Bulldogs, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens.

    Prediction: Finalist. The Lightning have done the most complete turnaround of any team on this list besides the Devils. Furthermore, Boucher has proved that he can succeed at every level of hockey.

Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks

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    Vigneault has won the Jack Adams once before. He took home the award in 2007 following his first season in Vancouver, when he led the Canucks to 49 wins and 105 points, both of which were franchise records.

    He boasts the highest winning percentage of any coach in Canucks history. His win percentage prior to this season was .588, and he had an overall record of 88-59-17.

    The Canucks currently sit at 46-16-9 with 101 points and are first in the Northwest Division and the Western Conference. They also have the best overall record in the NHL and are four points away from matching their points total from Vigneault's first season.

    Vigneault has already led the Canucks to their fourth 100-point season since he became the bench boss.

    Under his wing, forward Daniel Sedin has improved for the third straight season. His 38 goals are second in the NHL, and his 90 points are first overall. Daniel is in a good position to capture this year's Art Ross Trophy after twin brother Henrik won last year.

    Center Ryan Kesler has 36 goals on the season, the highest total of his career.

    Defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis have been two other standouts. Bieksa is fourth in the NHL with a plus-minus rating of plus-26, which is also the highest plus-minus of his career. He is on pace for his fourth 20-point season.

    Hamhuis, who signed a six-year contract with Vancouver this offseason, has already posted his seventh straight 20-point season. His plus-24 rating is eighth in the league.

    Prediction: Finalist. Vigneault has great regular seasons, which the Jack Adams is based on. But maybe he should be thankful this isn't about playoff success, as the Canucks' highly talented teams have underperformed in recent postseasons.

Finalists and Winner

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    If I were voting for the Jack Adams Award (or in case you haven't been paying attention), here is who my finalists would be.

    1. Jacques Lemaire

    2. Guy Boucher

    3. Alain Vigneault

    The winner would be Guy Boucher.

    Boucher will slightly edge Lemaire for the award.

    Yes, Tampa Bay has great offensive talent, so its fifth seed shouldn't be a total shock. However, when you take a team from 12th place to the playoffs (for the first time in four years, mind you), there is no denying that the coach is a major part of that.

    If Boucher can do this now as the NHL's youngest active coach, can you imagine what Tampa Bay will be like for the next few seasons?

    What do you think, though?

    Is Boucher a realistic possibility for the award?

    Do you have a convincing case as to why Lemaire or Vigneault should take home the trophy?

    Do you think I left out any coaches? If so, who and why?

    As always, leave me a comment and let me know!

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