To mark the beginning of the 2019-20 regular season, NHL.com is running its first 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.
Joel Quenneville said he senses an opportunity to do something special with the Florida Panthers, a team with emerging talent but one that's fallen short of Stanley Cup Playoff expectations.
A three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, 2013, 2015), Quenneville was hired April 8 to coach the Panthers and said he likes what he's seen throughout the preseason.
"When we look at our team that last couple years, they were real close and had some real good opportunities here," Quenneville said. "They've got a real good core of young players who are going to that next level of being top players. [Center Aleksander Barkov] is a special player around the League who's really coming on. He can make a difference to the people around him."
Quenneville has 890 NHL coaching wins, which is second behind Scotty Bowman (1,244). That is one of the reasons a panel of 20 NHL.com writers project Quenneville will win the Jack Adams Award voted as NHL coach of the year for the second time (St. Louis Blues, 1999-2000).
Video: Quenneville joins the show to talk Panthers hockey
Quenneville received 14 first-place votes, Tampa Bay Lighting coach Jon Cooper received two, and Rick Tocchet of the Arizona Coyotes, Jim Montgomery of the Dallas Stars, Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche and Jon Hynes of the New Jersey Devils got one each.
In addition to Quenneville's experience, he appears to have the talent to win in Florida, which hasn't qualified for the playoffs the past two season and 16 of the past 18. This offseason, the Panthers signed two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, forwards Noel Acciari and Brett Connolly, and defenseman Anton Stralman, adding to a roster that includes Barkov, forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck, and defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Mike Matheson.
The Panthers, playing in the Atlantic Division with the Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, finished 12 points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference after falling short by one point in 2017-18.
"We've got several young guys that are at that stage of the career that have been close," Quenneville said. "Now we've got to find a way to get in. I know we're in the toughest division, toughest conference, so it'll be a great challenge for us. We're looking forward to having these guys maturing, having a little bit more responsibility individually, collectively, organizationally, and there's a lot of excitement as well."
The Panthers received the message throughout training camp and the preseason, when Quenneville's mission statement became clear.
"He's demanding in the way that you he would expect a coach to be, which is great," Matheson said. "It's very clear about what he wants from his team, which is great too. You're never guessing as to what he wants from you.
"Obviously, it's still early and everyone's kind of getting to know each other, but I think he has a great balance of being able to be serious and really get his message across, but then also be approachable too. I think the credibility that he brings to the table with his success is really important for our organization. I think we get overlooked a little bit sometimes, and having a guy like that in our organization really brings the attention that hopefully we can follow up with great play."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Joel Quenneville, Panthers, 86 points (14 first-place votes); Jon Cooper, Lightning, 30 (2); Rick Tocchet, Arizona Coyotes, 26 (1); Jim Montgomery, Stars, 21 (1); Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche, 18 (1); John Hynes, New Jersey Devils, 18, (1); Alain Vigneault, Philadelphia Flyers 18; Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs, 12; Ralph Kreuger, Buffalo Sabres, 10; Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights, 9; Barry Trotz, New York Islanders, 9; Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins, 8; Jeremy Colliton, Chicago Blackhawks, 7; Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes, 5; David Quinn, New York Rangers, 5; John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets, 4; Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins, 4; Claude Julien, Montreal Canadiens, 3; Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers, 3; Bill Peters, Calgary Flames, 2; D.J. Smith, Ottawa Senators, 1; Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues, 1