Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is having arguably his finest coaching performance behind the bench for Pittsburgh this season.
And that feat has not gone unnoticed.
The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) announced the winners and top three vote recipients for their Midseason Awards. Sullivan was at the top of the list for the Jack Adams Award, which is given to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success.
Sullivan has steered the Penguins to a 31-14-5 record (67 points) in 50 games, which ranks third in the Eastern Conference and fourth overall in the entire National Hockey League. The Penguins' 31 wins are the second-most in the league (33, Washington).
The Penguins have achieved this success despite suffering 209 man-games lost due to injury, and many to key players. Pittsburgh has lost the services of Sidney Crosby (28 games), Brian Dumoulin (27), Justin Schultz (23), Patric Hornqvist (17), Bryan Rust (14), Evgeni Malkin (13), Jake Guentzel (11), Alex Galchenyuk (9), Kris Letang (8) and many more.
The Penguins, a team branded on high-scoring talent and top-tier superstars, has adapted to be successful. Only one player, Evgeni Malkin (50 points) ranks in the top-30 exclusively in scoring. Instead the team has resorted to scoring by committee (3.30 goals per game, ranking 7th in the NHL).
And all the players point to the man behind the bench as the reason for their success (read more on that here).
"His message has to be clear every time. We also have to believe in the message we receive," said All-Star and Metro team captain Kris Letang. "The message is making sure that we're committed and that we pay attention to every little detail.
"The coaching staff has been doing a great job of preparing us to be good every night. It doesn't matter who is in our lineup."
"You can see during meetings and stuff and throughout the game that he's just got so much energy and passion and enthusiasm," said forward Bryan Rust, who has a career-high 21 goals this season. "You can see him yelling (on the bench), but that's because he cares. That just helps the guys play a little bit harder."
"You can see how bad he wants to win," forward Dominik Kahun said. "Every game, even if we're winning 3-0 or 3-1 and we do one bad thing, he's not happy about it and lets you know. But that's how winning is done. I think that's positive."
A total of 117 writers, representing 31 chapters, completed ballots for the PHWA. Last year, the PHWA's Midseason Awards correctly picked six of eight eventual award winners, though the NHL Broadcast Association will actually select the Jack Adams winner.