|Credit: James Guillory - USA Today Sports|
It's common knowledge that the Jack Adams award is more of a "best comeback team" trophy than one for the actual best coach - if it was the latter, then Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville would currently be sitting at eleven combined and few others would ever be finalists. Here are three likely candidates to win the Jack Adams award at the midway point of the season.
Remember 2014-15, when the Dallas Stars had all of that offensive firepower (including the Art Ross winner) and failed to make even a wild-card playoff spot? The team was awful defensively, giving up almost three goals per game, and their goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen, Anders Lindback, and Jhonas Enroth combined for a miserable .900 save percentage. They were a puzzle, considering how they were second in the league in scoring, but failed so badly defensively.
In the offseason, Lindy Ruff has evidently taught this team how to play defence (and acquiring Antti Niemi and Johnny Oduya has helped, too). The forwards are still scoring at will (Jamie Benn leads the league in points, and Tyler Seguin is 3rd), and the defence is actually, you know, playing defence, with Dallas ranking a much better 15th in the league in goals against, compared to being at the bottom of the pack last year.
The Stars are currently at the top of the Central Division pack. Should they keep this up, there's no reason that Lindy Ruff won't find himself as a Jack Adams finalist.
Now, I'm not saying that Washington was bad last year, by any stretch, because they weren't. They finished with 101 points, good for second in the Metropolitan.
However, what the Caps are doing this year is remarkable, and a big reason for their surge up the standings is their coach, veteran Barry Trotz.
Under Trotz's direction, the Capitals are first in the Metro. By eleven points. They're also one point back of Lindy Ruff's Dallas Stars for first in the NHL.
The scorers are scoring: Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin each have over 30 points. Who else has over 30 points? Sophomore Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has benefited from an increased role given to him by Trotz, and whose goal totals through 35 games are the same as they were in 80 games last year. The Capitals are also fantastic defensively, as is expected from a Trotz-coached team.
Barry Trotz has the Washington Capitals soaring. Should they remain at pace, he'll be a shoo-in for a nomination.
In the tightly-packed race for the Atlantic Division crown, one team currently stands on top: ...wait, really? The same team that finished out of the playoffs by eight points last season?
The Florida Panthers have been a huge surprise this year! They're fun to watch, skilled up front with young stars and old faces, solid defensively, and great in goal!
Florida has the third-fewest goals against in the NHL. Last year, they weren't even third-best in that category in their division. Forwards young and old, such as Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jussi Jokinen, and, right, Jaromir Jagr, are providing much more scoring than last year. And star goaltender Roberto Luongo has a .926 save percentage... better than his marks in the past five years.
Clearly, Gerard Gallant has his team going in the right direction, and they're certainly heading in the right direction. Should they make the playoffs, he'll be right in the mix come Awards-time.
Also Considered: John Hynes, NJD; Jeff Blashill, DET; Darryl Sutter, LA; Dave Tippett, ARI