To mark the midpoint of the 2016-17 season, NHL.com is running its second installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Jack Adams Award.
Less than one year after finishing 27th in the NHL with a 34-40-8 record, the Columbus Blue Jackets are contending for the Presidents' Trophy and on track for their best regular season since entering the League in 2000-01.
Front and center is coach John Tortorella, who took over last season when Todd Richards was fired after an 0-7-0 start. Not much was expected from the Blue Jackets entering this season, and Tortorella was facing criticism after losing three games and winning none as coach of Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Columbus' 0-2-0 start failed to assuage any concerns, but the Blue Jackets responded with a 12-3-4 run. A 3-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 1 was the beginning of a 16-game winning streak, the second-longest in NHL history (the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins won 17 straight).
The rise of the Blue Jackets makes Tortorella the midseason favorite to win the Jack Adams Award as the League's best coach, according to a panel of 13 NHL.com writers. Tortorella is 63-41-12 since taking over for Richards and will coach the Metropolitan Division team at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
"Our guys have come a long way," Tortorella said. "No matter what our record is (29-8-4), no matter what happens with the winning and losing, I know our guys have improved on being pros and it's good to see. Because if the organization takes more steps in the right direction, that room has to be theirs, and they're beginning to take that over."
Tortorella earned 60 points (12 first-place votes), 20 more than Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. Ten coaches received at least one vote.
Though it's been a landmark season, the Blue Jackets lost three of four right after the winning streak.
"I told the team, I think we've gained some respect in the League: 37 games worth. …," Tortorella said. "You look at our [Metropolitan Division], you look what's happening there, at the parity in the League, you cannot exhale. The team and the organization have no reason to have any type of a hangover. We have to try and get better as we go each day."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets, 60 points; Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild, 40; Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs, 17; Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers, 16; Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers, 15; Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins, 13; Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks, 7; Michel Therrien, Montreal Canadiens, 5; Guy Boucher, Ottawa Senators, 5; Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers, 1.