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Jack Adams Award favorites include Brind'Amour, Sullivan, Quenneville

Cassidy, Cooper, Tippett also selected by writers as top coach @NHLdotcom

Who was the best coach in the NHL during the 2020-21 regular season? That will be known when the Jack Adams Award, voted on by the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association, is revealed during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Though the regular season isn't scheduled to end until May 19, staff writers already have their candidates for the award. 

Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina is tied atop the NHL standings with the Vegas Golden Knights with 80 points (36-11-8) and second to Vegas in points percentage (.741 to .727) but has no superstars. Dougie Hamilton is tied for seventh among defensemen with 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) in 54 games, but the Hurricanes have one player in the top 40 NHL scorers, forward Sebastian Aho, who is tied for 14th with 57 points (24 goals 33 assists) in 55 games. The Hurricanes have many hallmarks of good coaching. They are tied with the New York Islanders for fourth in the NHL with an .804 points percentage (20-3-5) at home, when they have the last change and can choose favorable matchups. Their power play ranks second (26.3 percent) and their penalty kill is third (85.5 percent). Good goaltending makes coaches look good and Carolina has the best 5-on-5 save percentage in the NHL (.935). The Hurricanes also are one of the best possession teams, ranking fourth in 5-on-5 shot-attempts percentage (SAT%) at 53.8 percent. -- Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins

When defensemen Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug left the Bruins as unrestricted free agents, it wouldn't have been out of line to be concerned about the depth at the position to start the season. Outside of Charlie McAvoy, there were questions everywhere, and then Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk each sustained injuries during the season. That wouldn't seem to line up with a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But Cassidy, who won the Jack Adams Award last season, has been his usual steady presence, mixing and matching with aplomb within his structured system. The Bruins have allowed the fourth-fewest goals per game (2.41) in the NHL despite goalie Tuukka Rask missing for 17 of 18 games between March 7 and April 15 because of an injury. Cassidy also seamlessly integrated forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar and defenseman Mike Reilly into the lineup after they were acquired before the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline on April 12. Cassidy has the Bruins peaking at the right time. -- Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning

A good team takes on the best characteristics of its coach. Cooper never looks pressured or frazzled, so his players never do either. The Lightning have handled every adversity, from the pressure of being Stanley Cup champion to new opponents in the Discover Central Division to the absence of forward Nikita Kucherov (hip) throughout the regular season. Cooper again has pushed all the right buttons, merging a versatile offensive attack with outstanding defensive play and special teams that rank in the top six in the NHL on the power play (sixth, 23.5 percent) and penalty kill (sixth, 83.8 percent). Cooper's leadership is why the Lightning are among the elite teams in the NHL and a good bet to win the Cup again this season. -- Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor

Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers

All due and well-earned respect to Brind'Amour, who guided the Hurricanes to Central Division title, but my vote goes to Quenneville. The Panthers made some great moves during the offseason and ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline, but it takes the right coach to know where to put the players, which personalities blend well together and who is best in which role. Quenneville has pushed all the right buttons again and has the Panthers heading to the playoffs for the sixth time in 27 seasons. And they've been succeeding for more than a month without top defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who fractured his left leg March 28. In 'Q' they trust. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer

Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins

Sullivan was coach of the Penguins' Stanley Cup championship teams in 2016 and 2017 but this season may be his best coaching job. Being able to guide the Penguins to the MassMutual East Division title during such a roller-coaster season is a testament to the outstanding job he's done. He had to deal with the resignation of general manager Jim Rutherford seven games into the season; Rutherford hired Sullivan as coach in 2015. He had to become educated in the ways of a new GM, Ron Hextall, and a new president of hockey operations, Brian Burke. Tristan Jarry, starting a season as a No. 1 NHL goalie for the first time, was 2-4-1 in his first seven starts. Captain Sidney Crosby was among several players who missed games due to NHL COVID-19 protocol. Center Evgeni Malkin returned May 3 after missing 23 games with a lower-body injury. Yet the Penguins won the division. The common stabilizing thread through it all? Sullivan. -- Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers

Why Tippett remains under the radar when it comes to consideration for the Adams is a mystery, given the candidates for the award almost always are gauged against expectations for their team. Though they were lightly regarded entering the season, Tippett has brought the Oilers to legitimate contender status; they have cliched second place in the Scotia North Division. The Oilers haven't won just by sending out forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but by getting them to lead the way into playing with better structure. Edmonton has scored more this season (3.28 goals per game, up from 3.14 last season), and more importantly has trimmed its goals-against significantly (2.72 per game this season vs. 3.03 last season). Tippett, who is in his second season with Edmonton, has been building things gradually and now has the Oilers primed to be a serious postseason threat. -- Tim Campbell, staff writer

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