During last June's NHL Awards, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz was voted the winner of Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach. It was well earned as Trotz turned around a club that was coming off a historically bad defensive year and had lost star John Tavares to free agency. Trotz got the Islanders to play with structure, find timely scoring, and not only make the Stanley Cup playoffs, but sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.
Jack Adams, the man for whom the Coach of the Year award is named after, might have been proud.
Of all the names that have been etched onto the Stanley Cup, Adams is the only one that appears as a player, coach, and general manager. After a hall-of-fame decade-long playing career that saw him win two Cups, Adams would step behind the Detroit bench in 1927 and would coach 964 games for the Red Wings, winning 413 of them, as well as three Stanley Cups.
In 1947 he moved upstairs to become the Red Wings general manager where he won four more Cups thanks to the creation of a farm system that developed legends like Gordie Howe, Red Kelly, and Ted Lindsay. As a general manager, he earned the moniker 'Trader Jack' thanks to his lack of fear in making big trades.
His 35 years spent as a general manager is the longest tenure in NHL history and all but four of those seasons he worked without an official contract, opting for a handshake over paperwork. He is second on the Red Wings all time wins list as a coach, finally surpassed by Mike Babcock in 2014.
One of the true legends of the game, Adams was honored during the 1973-1974 season with the creation of the Jack Adams Award, given at the end of the season to the coach who most influenced their team's success.
The award is voted on by the league's broadcasters and the inaugural 1974 trophy went to Fred Shero whose Philadelphia Flyers were the first non 'original six' team to win the Stanley Cup. Trotz' win this past June was his second - having previously won the award in 2016 with the Washington Capitals - making him the fifth coach to win two with two different teams. The others include Jacques Lemaire (New Jersey Devils 1994, Minnesota Wild 2003), Pat Quinn (Philadelphia Flyers 1980, Vancouver Canucks 1992), Scotty Bowman (Montreal Canadiens 1977, Detroit Red Wings 1996), and John Tortorella (Tampa Bay Lightning 2004, Columbus Blue Jackets 2017).
Pat Burns has the most, hoisting the award three times and he did it with three different clubs - Montreal Canadiens 1989, Toronto Maple Leafs 1993, and Boston Bruins 1998.
Only one coach, Jacques Demers, has won the award back-to-back but Trotz could be in the running to match him this year. The Islanders were thought to be a team that could back slide this season as they made no significant off-season additions. That hasn't been the case and Trotz has them in the thick of things in the Atlantic Division.
Boston Bruins head man, Bruce Cassidy, may be the front runner to win the award this year as the Bruins have shown no signs of a Stanley Cup hangover. After losing to the St. Louis Blues in the Final last spring, Cassidy's Bruins are off to a blistering 20-5-6 start.
Other top candidates this year include Dave Tippett who has his Edmonton Oilers on top of the Pacific Division standings. If he were to win, it would be the second award for the former NHL Seattle Senior Advisor, having won previously with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2010. Tippett may face a challenge from his former team as Rick Tocchet has the Arizona Coyotes nipping at Tippett's heels in the Pacific.
Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar could get the nod as he has his team in contention despite having two of his stars, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, miss significant time due to injury. Bednar is looking up at the St. Louis Blues and head coach Craig Berube who not only turned the Blues around last year but won the Stanley Cup to boot. They haven't missed a beat this year and are leading the Central Division.
The team with the most points, the Washington Capitals, are led by second-year man Todd Rierden who has the 2018 Champions back in form and looking to make another run. It's a run that may earn him his first Jack Adams.
There is still plenty of season left in the NHL and the stocks of these teams will certainly rise, and perhaps fall. Whichever bench boss guides their team the best down the stretch just may end up taking home the hardware at the NHL Awards in June.
Here are the past winners of the Jack Adams Award:
- 2019: Barry Trotz, New York Islanders
- 2018: Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
- 2017: John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets
- 2016: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
- 2015: Bob Hartley, Calgary Flames
- 2014: Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
- 2013: Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators
- 2012: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues
- 2011: Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins
- 2010: Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes
- 2009: Claude Julien, Boston Bruins
- 2008: Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals
- 2007: Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks
- 2006: Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres
- 2004: John Tortorella, Tampa Bay Lightning
- 2003: Jacques Lemaire, Minnesota Wild
- 2002: Bob Francis, Phoenix Coyotes
- 2001: Bill Barber, Philadelphia Flyers
- 2000: Joel Quenneville, St. Louis Blues
- 1999: Jacques Martin, Ottawa Senators
- 1998: Pat Burns, Boston Bruins
- 1997: Ted Nolan, Buffalo Sabres
- 1996: Scotty Bowman, Detroit Red Wings
- 1995: Marc Crawford, Quebec Nordiques
- 1994: Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey Devils
- 1993: Pat Burns, Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1992: Pat Quinn, Vancouver Canucks
- 1991: Brian Sutter, St. Louis Blues
- 1990: Bob Murdoch, Winnipeg Jets
- 1989: Pat Burns, Montreal Canadiens
- 1988: Jacques Demers, Detroit Red Wings
- 1987: Jacques Demers, Detroit Red Wings
- 1986: Glen Sather, Edmonton Oilers
- 1985: Mike Keenan, Philadelphia Flyers
- 1984: Bryan Murray, Washington Capitals
- 1983: Orval Tessier, Chicago Blackhawks
- 1982: Tom Watt, Winnipeg Jets
- 1981: Red Berenson, St. Louis Blues
- 1980: Pat Quinn, Philadelphia Flyers
- 1979: Al Arbour, New York Islanders
- 1978: Bobby Kromm, Detroit Red Wings
- 1977: Scotty Bowman, Montreal Canadiens
- 1976: Don Cherry, Boston Bruins
- 1975: Bob Pulford, Los Angeles Kings
- 1974: Fred Shero, Philadelphia Flyers