McLellan, Julien, Murray vying for NHL top coach award

Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks, Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins and Andy Murray of the St. Louis Blues are the finalists for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year.

The battle for NHL coach of the year will include a regular-season conference champion and two others whose teams couldn't survive the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Claude Julien's Boston Bruins, who topped the East with 116 points this season, will open a conference semifinal against Carolina on Friday night.

Also named Friday as finalists for the Jack Adams Award is first-year NHL head coach Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks and Andy Murray of the St. Louis Blues.

The winner will be announced June 18 at the NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

"There could be seven guys win it this year," Hockey Night in Canada personality Don Cherry, a Jack Adams winner in 1976 with the Boston Bruins, said Friday during a conference call.

Julien, 49, who won a Memorial Cup with Hull in 1997, was fired in-season from his two previous NHL jobs — by Montreal in January 2006, and by New Jersey with only a week left in the 2006-07 season, when he had a 49-24-9 record with the Devils.

He got the Bruins into the playoffs last spring for the first time since the 2004-05 lockout and then formed them into the powerhouse of the East, getting big seasons out of players reputed to be difficult to coach, including Marc Savard and Phil Kessel.

The 41-year-old McLellan, a former assistant coach with the defending Cup champion Detroit Red Wings who replaced Ron Wilson in San Jose, led the Sharks to a league-high 117 points in his first season behind their bench.

In the playoffs, the top seed in the West fell to the No. 8 Anaheim Ducks in six games. But since the award is based on the regular season, San Jose's elimination won't work against the Melville, Sask., native.

Murray, 58, got the Blues into the playoffs for the first time since the lockout with a huge second half, despite missing key players like Eric Brewer, Paul Kariya and Erik Johnson with long-term injuries.

St. Louis wasn't expected to make the post-season but had the NHL's best record in the second half at 25-9-7 to finish sixth in the West.

However, the Blues hit a wall in the opening round of the playoffs in the form of Vancouver, which swept the best-of-round series in four games.

With files from The Canadian Press