To mark the three-quarters point of the season, NHL.com is running its fourth installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the top coach in the NHL as selected in a Professional Hockey Writers Association poll.
The New York Islanders won their 36th game of the 2018-19 season with a 4-0 victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
That's significant because it exceeded their total from last season, one that crashed with an eight-game losing streak (0-4-4), an 11th place finish in the Eastern Conference, the firings of coach Doug Weight and general manager Garth Snow, and the departure of captain John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
[RELATED: Complete Trophy Tracker Coverage]
This season, the Islanders (36-19-7) are tied for first in the Metropolitan Division with the Washington Capitals and 22-7-3 since Dec. 15. And Barry Trotz, hired June 21, 2018, after winning the Stanley Cup with the Capitals 14 days prior, is a major reason why.
Trotz is the overwhelming favorite to win the Jack Adams Award for the second time (2015-16 with Washington) at the three-quarters point of the season, according to a panel of 21 NHL.com writers. Trotz earned 95 points from the NHL.com panel, 27 more than Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters. Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning was third with 41 points.
"Our coaching staff, Barry and his group, have done a tremendous job of putting in a system and holding people accountable," Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "Not only that, the players holding themselves accountable to what has to be done. That's the way you have success."
Trotz arrived in New York with enough cachet to demand instant accountability. The players responded to him, and the turnaround has been dramatic. The Islanders are first in goals-against (144) and goals-against per game (2.32) after giving up NHL highs of 293 goals and 3.57 per game a season ago.
"I think it's buy-in," Trotz told WFAN on Feb. 19. "Obviously defense is about positioning, it's about work ethic, it's about pride and executing in certain situations. I knew we could come in and fix a lot about that. Could we get it to the extent of being No. 1 overall in terms of goals against? I don't know if I believed that was possible or not, but I knew I could get it up the ladder to a respectable factor, probably in the top-third as a staff.
"It starts with the players. They have to buy in. ... The strength is in the group, not in the individual, and that's been the strength of our hockey team."
For the Islanders, change was good, and life has been grand with their respected coach.
"He's such a genuine person," forward Anders Lee told "NHL Tonight" on Monday. "He's so caring, not only just about what we got going on as a team but as individuals and people. We've all just really taken everything that him and the staff have had to offer us and run with it, and really make some good things happen."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1- basis): Barry Trotz, Islanders, 95 points (19 first-place votes); Bill Peters, Flames, 68 points (one first-place vote); Jon Cooper, Lightning, 41 points; Claude Julien, Montreal Canadiens, 36 points (one first-place vote); Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues, 20 points; Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins, 11 points; John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets, eight points; Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets, six points; Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks, five points; Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes, six points; Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights, two points; Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators, two points; Pete DeBoer, San Jose Sharks, two points; Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs, one point.