Vigneault deserving of Jack Adams Award
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/03/2015 (2995 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Mike Babcock, generally considered to be the best coach in hockey today, has never won the Jack Adams Award because it’s unfortunately morphed into a makeover contest.
They should change the name to the Bounce-back Award or Exceeding Expectations Trophy. The choice has become more about overachieving and less about being awarded to the coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success,” as the official criteria stipulates.
Alain Vigneault and the work he’s done with the New York Rangers has received very little coach of the year buzz with most of it going to Bob Hartley, Paul Maurice and Peter Laviolette.
Those men have done fine work taking teams from outside of the post-season picture one year ago and put them into it today. All Vigneault did was take a Stanley Cup finalist and make it better. His work doesn’t have the benefit of the overachievement label that now seems to carry all the weight in coach-of-the-year arguments. But with 46 victories and a legitimate opportunity to win the President’s Trophy, Vigneault has milked results from his team like few others in the NHL this season.
Unlike last year’s winner Patrick Roy, for example, Vigneault isn’t overseeing a dramatic remodel but instead has taken excellence to a higher level. So he isn’t an obvious choice, despite being the right one.
The formula has become predictable: Miss the playoffs or achieve a disappointing result plus fire coach plus hire new coach plus make playoffs or better equals win Jack Adams Award.
Voters have given the award to a coach after his first season with a team in five of the last eight seasons and 17 times in the trophy’s 40 year history.
It’s all about a dramatic uptick in results.
If Hartley finds a way to get the Calgary Flames into the playoffs it’s a lock. He’ll win the Jack Adams. If he misses and Maurice gets the Jets to the post-season, the trophy will find its way to a fireplace mantle in Winnipeg.
Hartley’s Flames were supposed to finish last in the NHL and very few outside of Winnipeg thought Maurice’s team was ready for the post-season.
Hartley’s leap from cellar to playoffs would be viewed as the one covering the most distance. But he needs to finish strong and get in the playoffs to win. If he doesn’t and Maurice manages to turn the trick, his work with the Jets will be viewed as the surprise of the season and he’ll need a tuxedo for a weekend in Vegas this June.
Both have done fine jobs and both would be good choices.
Same goes for Laviolette in Nashville, Jack Capuano on Long Island or Barry Trotz down in Washington.
Vigneault took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup last season and then saw several key free agents walk out the door. Lengthy injuries to Martin St. Louis and goalie Henrik Lundqvist have also taxed the Rangers but Vigneault has found a way to keep his team spitting out wins.
The Rangers have 99 points and a league-best plus-54 goal differential after 71 games and this point last season had 80 points and a goal differential of plus-13. New York is both playing better hockey and winning more.
Maurice has had a transformative effect on his club improving both their puck possession game and goals against. Maurice’s work will benefit the Jets not only this season but for many to come. He’s changed the Jets from an easy team to play against into a tough out.
The Jets like to skate and hit and they defend well. Maurice has taken them from a sub-par Corsi team with a 48.8 per cent rating under former coach Claude Noel to eighth best in the NHL at 53.3 per cent. Maurice has improved the Jets goals against from 22nd in the league one year ago to 14th in the NHL so far this season.
Under Noel, the Jets had a winning percentage of .502 in 177 games. Maurice’s Jets have performed at a .593 clip over 107 games.
Laviolette has overseen improvement in Nashville but the biggest difference in the Predators from last year to this is the health of all-world goalie Pekka Rinne. Rinne played in just 24 games for the Preds last season and has already seen action in 57 under new coach Laviolette.
There is lots to like about the job Hartley has done in Calgary and how they’ve managed to keep winning following the loss of captain and all-star defenceman Mark Giordano is a wonder.
The Flames have the third worst Corsi number in the NHL at 44.6 and how they keep winning is a bit of a mystery. Hartley has maximized minimal talent and despite having a below average save percentage of .910 his team keeps winning in large part to having the league’s second highest shooting percentage. The Flames are also fifth in the league with a .590 winning percentage when being outshot.
Laviolette, Hartley and Maurice have engineered major turnarounds with their teams and all could be finalists. Taking a bottom feeder and getting it over the playoff line is commendable.
But improving upon excellence is more difficult. The Rangers could easily have slipped this season. Treading water would have represented success. But Vigneault doubled down and got more blood from the same stone which is near impossible to do.
It shouldn’t be about the quickest change. It should be about the best work. Under that criteria, Vigneault is your man.
Updated on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 7:06 AM CDT: Fixes minor errors