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Trophy Tracker

John Tortorella top choice in Jack Adams race

Blue Jackets coach finishes ahead of Maple Leafs' Mike Babcock for award by panel

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

To mark the end of the 2016-17 regular season, is running its final installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Jack Adams Award.

Few, if anyone, would have predicted the success coach John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets enjoyed this season.

Expectations were low in Columbus following a 27th-place finish in the NHL standings last season and Tortorella going 0-3-0 as Team USA coach at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. Little did anyone realize Tortorella would lead the Blue Jackets to the finest regular season in their 17 years in the NHL. They finished with 108 points (50-24-8) and will make their third postseason appearance, and first since 2014, against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN 360, TVA Sports).

Though the Blue Jackets stumbled to the finish line by losing six of their final seven games (1-5-1), this was one of Tortorella's finest coaching performances, including his Stanley Cup championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and is the eighth NHL coach to lead three teams to 100-point seasons (Lightning, New York Rangers, Blue Jackets). There are a few reasons why Tortorella is the favorite to win the Jack Adams Award as the League's best coach according to a panel of 14 writers:

* The Blue Jackets responded to a 0-2-0 start by going 12-3-4 in their next 19 games. A 5-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 29 was the beginning of a 16-game winning streak, the second-longest in League history behind the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins (17 straight).

* Though the Blue Jackets don't have any big-name scorers, they got the job done by committee, led by right wing Cam Atkinson's 62 points (35 goals, 27 assists). Twelve players scored at least 10 goals including defensemen Seth Jones (12) and Zach Werenski (11).

* Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky won 41 games and led the League with a 2.06 goals-against average, and .931 save percentage (minimum 25 games) to emerge as a frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy.

The Blue Jackets' next mission is to advance to the second round for the first time. If the regular season was any indication, this represents their best chance at the Stanley Cup, and Tortorella has proven to be the right coach at the right time.

"It's the start of the road," Tortorella said after Columbus became the second team to clinch a berth in the playoffs with a 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils on March 19. "The players should feel real good about themselves because they've done a great job up to this point. Now we need to go about our business the right way."

Tortorella earned 59 points from the panel, 15 more than the Toronto Maple Leafs' Mike Babcock. Todd McLellan of the Edmonton Oilers finished third with 38.

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1- basis): John Tortorella, Blue Jackets, 59 points; Mike Babcock, Maple Leafs, 44; Todd McLellan, Oilers, 38; Guy Boucher, Ottawa Senators, 16; Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild, 15; Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks, 14; Glen Gulutzan, Calgary Flames, 10; Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins, 9; Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals, 3; Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers, 2.

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