The last time Andrew Brunette was named a Jack Adams Award finalist, the rookie bench boss found himself without the coveted hardware, and his job, just a few short months later.

Safe to say, history is not likely to repeat itself this time around.

Returning to Nashville after skating with the Predators’ inaugural lineup a quarter century ago, the former forward turned head coach took a retooled roster of seasoned veterans and fresh-faced greenhorns from postseason write offs to a pesky, legitimate playoff opponent against one of the best teams in the National Hockey League.

Though their road was marked with bumps, their postseason dreams dashed much too early, speaking alongside General Manager Barry Trotz at the pair’s end-of-season press conference on Tuesday, Brunette took a moment of pride in his team’s accomplishments.

“I think we probably didn't get rewarded early [in the season], but I still liked what we were doing and what we were building,” Brunette said. “I think we went through some adversity, obviously in that Vegas stretch, and it could have gone one of two ways. And I think the leadership and the players decided it was going to go the way it went. And that just seemed to build momentum that started building a bond between them. And to sit back and watch it night after night, and how much they cared about each other, for me is one of the most special times I've had with the team… The energy was really high. I thought they had fun together, they had joy and what they did was tremendous and remarkable.”

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Like his former coach and current boss, Brunette admittedly entered the year not knowing exactly how things would play out. But he had a plan and knew he was going to stick to it - no matter what happened.

“I came in with open eyes and I had a vision and an idea of what I wanted, how I wanted us to play, and I didn't know if we could get there yet,” Brunette said. “But I was going to be stubborn and have a strong belief in what I think works, and I was going to see it through. And I was very fortunate - we talked about how it could go either way at different times during the year - but I was going to risk it all, because I believed that this has to be done a certain way. And I was very fortunate that the group stayed together, grew tighter and just had a wonderful second half of the year. When you're beginning a journey, you're going to go through stuff. We're going to go through stuff again next year, but I think to go through it, it's in the bank. It's not always going to be perfect, but I think we understood what needed to be done when you go into critical times, when there's some adversity and when it gets hard. And I felt that the group bonded, so I feel good about that. That's probably the proudest thing I have from this year.”

The unwavering commitment from behind the bench of course did not go unnoticed, nor unappreciated by Brunette’s players, who rallied from a four-point deficit in early February to a franchise record 18-game point streak (16-0-2) down the stretch, and ultimately, a postseason berth.

“It can't be easy going into a whole new team and organization as a head coach and trying to get to know your players, trying to preach a new system that not a lot of us have played before,” Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “It didn't start out great and we could have just tumbled and let the season go to waste, but we dug our heels in and [it started] with him. He put together a plan of how to get better results on the ice and built that character out of us to care for one another and the little sacrifices you have to make in games, and the results kind of come off of that. I've loved his attitude all year, from coming in trying to set an example, and all the way through to the very last minute believing in our group. And that's what you want, is a coach that believes in you and thinks the world of you.”

That level of undying belief in his players, and the trust that followed, perhaps comes most naturally from living the same experiences.


Brunette’s 1,110 games played in the NHL, his 267 in the AHL and his 195 in the Ontario Hockey League certainly didn’t hurt as he grew acclimated with his team over a grueling eight-month span.

In fact, it’s likely why he got the job in the first place.

“I wanted to find someone who had a little more offensive mind and wanted someone who could connect with the star players. I wanted a good hockey person,” Trotz said. “And I knew [Brunette’s] work, I knew how he played, I knew how he speaks with players, how he connects, [how he] has lots of experience and experience at every level. So a player can't come into your room and go, ‘You don't know what I'm talking about, you never went through that.’ He's gone through everything. He's gone through the East Coast League, the American League, the NHL. He's been in development, he's been part of management, he’s been part of scouting. He's been part of a little bit of everything. So, [I wanted] a well-rounded hockey guy and someone I could have a relationship with where I could say, ‘This is going to take some time. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but this is my vision.’”

No doubt, Trotz found the coach he was looking for - and then some.

“It's the whole journey that I'm excited to be on with Andrew, because we've dealt with a lot,” Trotz said. “I have a lot of experience in coaching for a long time and being a part of the organization - and David Poile is such a good mentor - that I think between us having this journey with the fans who were absolutely wonderful this year, we can build something pretty special here.”

Though there’s still a ways to go before Trotz and Brunette reach their ultimate goal - the kind that sees 34-and-a-half pounds of silver that make up the Stanley Cup in the Predators locker room and a parade down Broadway - something special has seemingly already arrived in Smashville.

“I love this group, and I was very fortunate, very grateful to coach them,” Brunette said. “And that is the reason why I do this. You don't always win, but it's the people you get to do it with. And I'm very grateful that the group that I had this year was a joy for me to come to the rink with every day. It was a joy for me to watch them play. More importantly, it was a joy to see how close they got. And that's kind of my why.”

The Jack Adams Award winner, voted on by the NHL Broadcasters' Association, will be announced during the Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals.

If Brunette wins the prestigious coaching award, he would become the first head coach in franchise history to do so.

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