Behind any successful team, there is a successful head coach.
As Michel Therrien explains, though, behind any successful head coach is a staff of successful assistants, management and ownership.
All, he insists, contributed to the Penguins’ 105-point season in 2006-07, which ranked as the
|Coach Michel Therrien |
fourth-highest single-season turnaround in NHL history.
As a result, Therrien is one of three finalists for the Jack Adams Award, which goes to the NHL’s outstanding coach as selected by the league’s broadcasters. Therrien joins Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff and Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault as finalists for the award, which will be given out Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the NHL Awards Television Special at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre.
“First of all, it’s an honor to be nominated. The coach of the year award is not only one guy. It starts from leadership of the ownership to the general manager to the assistant coaches to the players,” he said. “The Jack Adams Award is not only one guy and I have always believed that. It is good recognition for everyone involved with this hockey team.”
Therrien was promoted to Penguins head coach on Dec. 15, 2005, as the team finished with 58 points in the 2005-06 campaign. In his first full season behind the Pittsburgh bench last season, he guided the team to a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division and 105 points – the second-highest points total in franchise history, trailing only the 1992-93 team that won the Presidents’ Cup with 119.
The only other teams in NHL history to have better single-season turnarounds than this year’s Penguins are the 1993-94 Sharks (58 points), the 1992-93 Nordiques (52) and the 1981-82 Jets (48).
Not only did the Penguins improve substantially this season, but they also qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2000-01. In addition, they remained in the hunt for an Atlantic Division championship in the last week of the regular season.
“It was a great season for us, there’s no doubt. We accomplished a lot of things and took a big step,” he said. “For us, we’re looking to get better. We’re going to be better. Sometimes, you can’t judge a team by points. We could have like 95 points and be a better team.
“We’re looking to get better. We are well-prepared. We have had a lot of meetings to prepare ourselves for the draft and for free agents to see how we are going to be able to get better,” he continued. “If we have to make changes, it has to be the right change. We don’t want to make changes, just to make changes. We like the chemistry of our team. That was a big factor why we had such a good season. The chemistry of that team was pretty solid and we’re still going to focus on them.”
Therrien coached the Penguins’ final 51 games in 2005-06 and the team went 14-29-8 in that span. However, during that time, he was able to lay the foundation of his system for last season. With the aid of a rookie camp and full training camp, the Penguins were able to fully adjust and flourish in Therrien’s playing systems.
The Penguins finished 2006-07 with a 47-24-11 record, far surpassing Therrien’s previous high in his five-year NHL coaching career. He went 36-31-12-3 in the 2001-02 season with Montreal.
“We’re happy about what we accomplished, there’s no doubt,” he said. “We don’t want to be satisfied with what we accomplished. There’s one way to get better and that’s through hard work and a big commitment. Our players buy into that, so we’re pretty spoiled. We have to keep our focus on what is the big accomplishment. That is our target – the players, the coaches and management. We have the target and we’re focusing on that.”