Patrick Roy has had a dream year behind the bench of the Colorado Avalanche
By anybody's standards, the Hall of Fame goaltender, who did things the right way by learning his craft in junior hockey before jumping to the NHL, will be a leading contender to win the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.
Roy, 48, took a team of kids that finished 29th overall (16-25-7) in the lockout-shortened 2013 season and has them currently sitting third overall (52-21-7). A noteworthy feat for a rookie coach.
He would certainly be a finalist on my ballot if I had a vote. I do not, however. That falls on the shoulders of the NHL Broadcasters' Association.
The coach who would be No. 1 on my ballot is Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings
.Body of work
To say Babcock has had a better season than Roy would be splitting hairs. However, when you take into account Babcock's massive body of work in his nine years as coach of the Red Wings, three seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, plus his two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada (including this year at Sochi
), and factor in the injuries his team endured this season, the fact he was able to get his team into the playoffs is a remarkable accomplishment.
Babcock is regarded by many to be the best coach in the NHL. If that is the case, he should be rewarded for guiding his team into the post-season under trying circumstances.
When it comes to voting for the Jack Adams Award, there has traditionally been a prejudice against coaches of good teams. They had great players, they were supposed to win, they won. Big deal. Anybody could have coached those teams, right?
Perhaps. But are you willing to believe Babcock had no significant input in Detroit's Stanley Cup championship in 2007-08? Or that he was merely a figurehead when the Red Wings went to the final the following year? It would be like saying just because the Montreal Canadiens had the best players in the NHL, Toe Blake and Scotty Bowman didn't do their part in guiding the Habs to numerous Stanley Cup championships.
That would be silly.Injuries pile up
Babcock has instituted a system that features speed, puck control and responsible defence. His players buy in and, when they stick to his game plan, more often than not they are rewarded with victories.
That was never more evident than this season, when the hockey gods frowned on the Red Wings organization. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins, with 513 man-games lost, had more injuries than the Wings, who had 406 man-games lost.
It's not just the number of man-games lost either. Consider the star power the Red Wings lost for long stretches.
Superstar Pavel Datsyuk, for example, missed 33 games. Captain Henrik Zetterberg missed 35. Scoring ace Johan Franson missed 27 games, while solid two-way performer Darren Helm missed 40. The list goes on. Veterans Stephen Weiss and Mikael Samuelsson missed 54 games apiece while defenceman Jonathan Ericsson missed 32, Dan Cleary 28, Todd Bertuzzi 22 and Daniel Alfredsson 13.
There were nights when the Red Wings had as many American Hockey League players in the lineup as NHL players. Many teams could not withstand this type of substantial departure from the lineup, but the Red Wings pressed forward and qualified for the playoffs for the 23rdyear in a row.Kids alright
With so many experienced players sidelined, Babcock turned to the likes of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Tomas Jurco, among others. Nyquist, it should be noted, would have started the season in the NHL, but because the Red Wings had salary cap issues, he was the only player they could send down without exposing him to waivers. He has played superbly, scoring 28 goals and 48 points in 55 games.
The kids did not disappoint, and Babcock said one of the main reasons is because they learned their craft in the minors. The Red Wings, who are known for picking gems late in the draft, expect their youngsters to serve an apprenticeship in the AHL before being promoted.
Babcock was asked about the organization making the playoffs 23 straight seasons.
"I don't think about that much," he said. "I think about this year and this group of guys has worked really hard and they have been rewarded for it. This 23 thing is a great thing when you have been in the organization forever and when you are marketing your product, but do you think Tomas Jurco and Tatar and Nyquist care? They're just playing. They just want to play and I want to coach them. We're in it to play longer."
It would be ridiculous for Mike Babcock to go his entire NHL career without winning the Jack Adams Award. With all due respect to Roy and other coaches who have had wonderful years -- Ken Hitchcock of St. Louis, Jon Cooper of Tampa Bay, Todd Richards of Columbus and Craig Berube of Philadelphia among them -- they will have other shots at the Adams.
Mike Babcock deserves the award this season.
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