To mark the quarter pole of the 2016-17 season, NHL.com is running its third installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Jack Adams Award.
Bruce Boudreau was hired as coach of the Minnesota Wild on May 7, 2016, eight days after he was fired by the Anaheim Ducks, in hopes that he would spark a team that had been eliminated in six games by the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Wild and Boudreau have had their problems in the postseason. Minnesota has advanced beyond the second round once (2003) since joining the NHL in 2000. Boudreau won 409 games and eight division titles in 10 seasons with the Washington Capitals and Ducks; however, his teams appeared in the conference final once. He is 1-7 in Game 7s and is the only coach in NHL history to lose four in a row.
At the quarter pole of the 2016-17 regular season, the union has worked out as well as the Wild could have hoped. Powered by a 12-game winning streak from Dec. 4-29, Minnesota leads the Chicago Blackhawks by five points for first place in the Central Division and Western Conference standings, and is flirting with surpassing its single-season records of 48 wins and 104 points, each set in 2006-07.
That has Boudreau the favorite to win the Jack Adams Award as best coach in the League, according to a panel of 13 NHL.com writers.
"I haven't really reflected on how good our record is," said Boudreau, who won the award in 2007-08 with the Capitals. "I always reflect by sitting still for a week, how many teams are gaining on us. I look at that, and then I look at above and what we have to do to be the best. I've been in this position so many times in the last 14, 15 years that I don't want to reflect and pat yourself on the back, because anytime you pat yourself on the back and think you're doing good, that's when bad stuff happens. We want to push forward and try to catch the teams above us, and at the same time keep that one team that doesn't want to lose lately [Chicago] behind us.
"I like the fact that we've been fairly consistent, but I think we still have a lot of room to go and we can be much better."
Helping the cause for Boudreau is a breakout season from young forward Mikael Granlund, a renaissance by veteran center Eric Staal, and a Vezina Trophy-caliber performance from goalie Devan Dubnyk. In addition, five Wild players are in the top eight in the NHL in plus-minus rating, all plus-29 or better.
Boudreau's biggest move was creating the line of Granlund, Jason Zucker and Mikko Koivu on Nov. 25. The Wild are 30-7-4 since, and the three have combined for 49 goals (eight on the power play), 122 points and a plus-77 rating.
"Mikko's line, they're the ones who have scored all the power-play goals," Boudreau said. "They move it around so fast, and when you move the pucks quick and go to the net, look where the goals came from: the blue paint, because they shot the puck, they got inside and they know what it takes to score goals. Easy formula."
Boudreau earned 55 points, nine more than Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who was the favorite halfway through the season. Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs finished third with 21.
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1- basis): Bruce Boudreau, Wild, 55 points; John Tortorella, Blue Jackets, 46; Mike Babcock, Maple Leafs, 21; Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers, 18; Guy Boucher, Ottawa Senators, 16; Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers, 12; Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks, 12; Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals, 8; Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins, 6; Glen Gulutzan, Calgary Flames, 1.