Every year, it seems, coaches become one of the main storylines as teams exceed expectations. For the past several years, there has been no clear-cut favorite in the race for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the league's best coach.
Last season, Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes won the award, but it could have just as easily gone to Nashville's Barry Trotz or Colorado's Joe Sacco, the runners-up in the voting.
Through the first quarter of this season, the race appears to be just as tight with a field of at least 8 coaches making serious claims for the award. Despite the daunting nature of the task, NHL.com's Brian Compton is ready to anoint the Jack Adams Award front-runner at the quarter-pole mark of the season.
Terry Murray, Los Angeles Kings -- The rebuilding process long behind his team, Murray appears primed to take the Los Angeles Kings to greater heights. Despite losing 2010 Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty for six games due to a concussion, Murray's group marched on and entered Tuesday's action atop the highly-competitive Pacific Division at 13-7-0. After qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time in eight years, Murray and the Kings certainly seem ready to take that next step.
Jacques Martin, Montreal -- Under Martin's direction, the Canadiens are showing their march to the 2010 Eastern Conference Final was no fluke. Not even the loss of Jaroslav Halak, who was traded to St. Louis in the summer, has slowed the Habs down. They are in first place in the Northeast Division at 13-7-1 and Carey Price has been fantastic as Montreal's clear-cut No. 1 goaltender.
Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche -- A finalist for the Jack Adams Award last season (his first as a head coach in the NHL), Sacco is once again doing a dynamite job in Colorado. Even without No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson, who missed nearly a month with a knee injury, Sacco's Avs marched on behind some solid play by backup Peter Budaj. With 25 percent of the 2010-11 season complete, the Avalanche are atop the Northwest Division at 12-7-1.