Rick Tocchet

To mark the three-quarter point of the 2023-24 regular season, NHL.com is running its fourth 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 vote by the NHL Broadcasters' Association.

It was critical for Rick Tocchet and the coaching staff to frequently take the temperature of the Vancouver Canucks and determine if the breakneck pace started with a season-opening 8-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena on Oct. 11 would be sustainable in a seven-game Stanley Cup Playoff series.

There were probably cynics who found the mere mention of playoffs laughable. The Canucks have qualified once in eight seasons and twice since 2014-15. After a seven-game loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 Western Conference Second Round, they finished no higher than fifth in the Pacific Division and fired coaches Travis Green and Bruce Boudreau before luring Tocchet from the TNT studio Jan. 22, 2023.

Sustainable? Yes. Vancouver is 42-17-7 and contending for the Presidents' Trophy, given to the team with the best regular-season record in the NHL. That has Tocchet leading NHL.com voting for the Jack Adams Award at the three-quarters point of the season. A panel of 14 writers gave Tocchet 58 voting points, four for first place. Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella received 40 votes, five for first. Paul Maurice of the Florida Panthers was third (32 votes, one for first).

The Canucks established dominance with a 12-3-1 start. Resilience helped them weather a 1-5-1 slide from Feb. 17-29 and win their next four. Preparation has met opportunity with Vancouver arguably a favorite to be the first Canada-based team to win the Stanley Cup since the 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens.

"It's important that we use this month for rest, but also to work on our game," Tocchet said the morning of a 5-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets in Vancouver on Saturday. "That's on me to make sure I give these guys enough rest, but also you want to stay in shape and all that stuff and obviously have really good practices. So, this is a big month for us, and I've got to really use the science guy and you’ve got to use our resources in the coaches room because this is a month where it can really help us going into April."

The Canucks rank in the top five in goals for (3.55) and goals-against (2.67) per game, performing all season with strength, speed and precision. One of many reasons: Tocchet's ability to read the room.

"He's good at being consistent day in and day out, so we know what's expected of us," defenseman Carson Soucy said. "But then he's also good that when we need a break ... if we've had a long night or the guys just seem a little tired, he's good at giving us that extra day."

Tocchet's approach is simple: He listens, adjusts and leads by example. Instead of an inevitable decline, the Canucks are near their peak about six weeks before their shot at the Stanley Cup, another test of endurance the players and coach will be equipped to handle.

"You feel like you got so far to go to the end, you just want to get to March and the [NHL Trade Deadline], and then you feel like it's a sprint," Vancouver forward J.T. Miller said. "I think he does a good job of managing it. I know he's really big into the science of getting our rest and recovery. Whether we played bad or played well, he does an awesome job of still giving us our rest because he knows at the end of the day, as much as we need practice time, the rest this time of year is important."

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1- basis): Rick Tocchet, Vancouver Canucks, 58 points (four first-place votes); John Tortorella, Philadelphia Flyers, 40 points (five); Paul Maurice, Florida Panthers, 32 points (one); Kris Knoblauch, Edmonton Oilers, 24 points (two); Rick Bowness, Winnipeg Jets, 23 points (one); Peter Laviolette, New York Rangers, 14 points; Jim Montgomery, Boston Bruins, 9 points (one); Derek Lalonde, Detroit Red Wings, 7 points; Andrew Brunette, Nashville Predators, 3 points.

NHL.com independent correspondent Kevin Woodley contributed to this report

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