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Top Adams Award winners debated by NHL.com

Writers weigh in on performances by League's best coaches since 1973-74

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

The Jack Adams Award has been presented to the best coach in the NHL since 1974.

The history of the award is rich. Jacques Demers is the only coach to win it in consecutive seasons (1986-87 and 1987-88 with the Detroit Red Wings). Four coaches -- Jacques Lemaire (New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild), Pat Quinn (Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks), Scotty Bowman (Montreal Canadiens, Red Wings) and John Tortorella (Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets) -- have won it with two teams. Pat Burns is the only coach to win the Jack Adams with three teams (Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins).

 

[RELATED: Conn Smythe roundtable | Vezina roundtable | Norris roundtableCalder roundtable | Jack Adams Award winners]

 

In a continuing series of roundtables on the post-expansion era, we asked seven NHL.com writers for their opinion on which Adams Award performance since 1973-74 is the best:

 

Scotty Bowman, Montreal Canadiens, 1976-77

The greatest coach of all time coached the greatest team of all time in my book, and in his ("Scotty," by Ken Dryden). The 1976-77 Canadiens hold the record for points in a season (132). They had 20 points more than anyone else in the League, scored 64 goals more than any other team and allowed 22 fewer goals. The Canadiens goal differential was plus-216; no other team was better than plus-110. They lost eight games out of 80, one of 40 at home. Yes, their roster was full of future Hall of Famers in the pre-salary cap era, but the Jack Adams Award shouldn't always go to the coach with a surprising team or hot goalie. There is an art to managing elite players and melding them into a team with support players. Bowman did it many times in his legendary career, but even he, who coached some of the other greatest teams in NHL history, couldn't beat 132 points. -- Nick Cotsonika, columnist 

Video: Counting down Stu's Top 5 coaches

 

Pat Burns, Montreal Canadiens, 1988-89

When you start a season with a quote like, "I don't want to be coach of the year. I want to be coach for a year," and end the season with the Adams, it's an epic season. That's why I'm going with Burns. The Canadiens started slowly that season, with seven losses in their first 12 games. Tough going for a rookie coach. But the Canadiens bounced back to finish the season with 115 points (53-18-9), two behind the League-best Calgary Flames, as Burns won the first Adams Award for the first of three times (also 1992-93 with the Maple Leafs, 1997-98 with the Bruins). The Canadiens allowed 218 goals, the fewest in the NHL that season, and scored 315, the fifth-most, as Burns kickstarted a career that would see him posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. -- Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

 

Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey Devils, 1993-94

Lemaire joined the Devils at the start of the 1993-94 season and there were plenty of questions about the legendary player from the Canadiens dynasty, who had little NHL coaching experience (parts of two seasons with the Canadiens from 1983-85). They were answered quickly. New Jersey was on the rise before Lemaire arrived, but he accelerated it greatly. The Devils improved by 19 points in Lemaire's first season, and their 106 points was the first time New Jersey had finished with more than 100 in a season. The Devils scored 306 goals, second-most in the League behind the Red Wings (356), and allowed 220 goals, second-fewest in the League behind the Buffalo Sabres (218). New Jersey's plus-86 goal differential was the League's best. Lemaire also began the transition to goaltender Martin Brodeur, who was 21 at the time. The Devils reached the 1994 Eastern Conference Final, losing to the New York Rangers on a Game 7 double-overtime goal by Stephane Matteau. Not a bad way to start a successful five-season run in New Jersey. -- Shawn P. Roarke, Senior Director of Editorial

 

Scotty Bowman, Detroit Red Wings, 1995-96

Although he won the Jack Adams in 1976-77 as part of the Canadiens dynasty, when they won 60 of 80 games, Bowman outdid that accomplishment nearly 20 years later. He guided the Red Wings to a 62-13-7 record, the 62 wins setting an NHL record (since tied by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19), and they finished with 131 points, 27 more than the next closest team (Colorado Avalanche, 104). Detroit allowed the fewest goals in the League (2.21 per game) and had the best penalty-kill percentage (88.3). The Red Wings also had the second-best power play (21.3 percent), were third in goals per game (3.96) and allowed a League-low 24.2 shots on goal per game. Yes, there were seven future Hall of Famers on the roster (Dino Ciccarelli, Paul Coffey, Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman), but Bowman did a masterful job of getting them to play together. -- David Satriano, staff writer 

 

Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes 2009-10

The Coyotes were coming off another tough season, having finished 13th in the Western Conference with 79 points in 2008-09. Then coach Wayne Gretzky resigned during training camp. Enter Tippett, who had a tremendous impact on the Coyotes. Phoenix finished fourth in the conference and qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002. Their 107 points that season (50-25-7) remains the most in Winnipeg Jets/Coyotes history. They allowed 196 goals, third-fewest in the NHL, and their penalty kill was sixth in the League at 84.5 percent after finishing 28th (76.8 percent) in 2008-09. The Coyotes lost in seven games in the Western Conference first round to the Detroit Wings, who had played in the Stanley Cup Final in 2009 and won the Cup in 2008. But Tippett nevertheless orchestrated a tremendous turnaround in the desert. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer

 

Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights (2017-18)

Gallant helped the Golden Knights far exceed expectations on the way to one of the most memorable surprise stories in sports. Forward James Neal, Vegas' most well-known skater, nicknamed his team the "Golden Misfits," after the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, during which the League's 29 other teams exposed the players who comprised the Vegas roster, and in some cases arranged trades so that the expansion team wouldn't select a player who was eligible based on the rules. Although the Golden Knights had a high-end goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury, he was limited to 46 games because of injuries. At times Vegas was down to its third- and fourth-string goalies, Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk, but still achieved unthinkable success because of breakout performances from several players. Gallant arguably had the greatest Jack Adams Award performance ever in coaching the expansion Golden Knights to the Pacific Division title with 109 points (51-24-7) and later the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Washington Capitals in five games. -- Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor

Video: Gerard Gallant is presented the Jack Adams Award

 

Barry Trotz, New York Islanders, 2018-19

Don't call me out for recency bias; let's analyze the facts instead. The Islanders were the worst defensive team in the NHL under coach Doug Weight in 2017-18, allowing a League-worst 3.57 goals per game with the 31st-ranked penalty kill (73.2 percent). They gave up the first goal in 44 games, going 12-27-5 in those games. They were easy to play against. Fast forward one year, their first season under Trotz, and they were the best defensive team in the NHL. The Islanders allowed 2.33 goals per game. They scored the first goal 45 times, going 31-9-5 in those games. They arguably were the toughest team to play against in the NHL. Trotz brought his defensive, team-first system to the Islanders and they flourished. -- Dan Rosen, senior writer

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