Blog Entry

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:15 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:25 pm
Hitchcock has pointed St. Louis in the right direction at each and every turn. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Races. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

When it comes to coaches, it feels like nearly half lost their jobs at some point this season. Truth is, it's actually one shy of a 1/3, which is still an astronomically high number.

The ones that have stuck around? It seems like they are all in the conversation for coach of the year.

However it's the guy who came in after the season started that is running away with the Jack Adams Award for the top coach. Like his style or not,

Ken Hitchcock has pretty much been a miracle worker since coming into St. Louis just 13 games through the season. What has he done since? Only put the Blues in the mix of about four teams vying for the Presidents' Trophy. As it stands on Thursday, the Blues are the West's top team and tied with the Rangers for the best point total in the league. Not too shabby.

While I see him as a clear front-runner, I'm not sure everybody feels the same. And that's where the Jack Adams conversation gets interesting. The list of coaches who could be considered is about 10 guys long. Paul MacLean will be on everybody's finalist list with what he has down in Ottawa. You can see the rest of my top 5 below. What you don't see is the guys who didn't make the cut and it's a hell of a group. Dan Byslma, Barry Trotz, Mike Babcock, Kevin Dineen and Dave Tippett deserve mentions too.

When looking at the general managers, the architects, I think we have a much more defined group we're looking at. The nature of an award like this is that it's sometimes tough to gauge. If I were to pick the best GM in the game I might go with Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero or Mike Gillis. They have put together great teams over multiple years. But in just a one-year sense? It cuts it down.

So how do you not start with Dale Tallon in Florida? The Panthers have already eclipsed their point total from last season and they still have 17 games to go. While it's no guarantee yet, they do seem to be on their way to making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

And that's after going into the summer with hardly anybody on the roster. He went out and acquired nine players between the draft and the first few days of free agency. That's almost half the team! He continued by making a few trades including shipping David Booth to Vancouver. All the while he has done nothing to disrupt what looks to be a very promising future with a loaded farm system.

So here you go, this week's rankings. Remember, these are just one man's opinion and you can feel free to share yours below, I'm sure you will. As always, the rest of the races are below with a quick update.

Award watch
Jack Adams GM
Ken Hitchcock The Blues are 36-11-7 since he took over. All I have for that is Wow! He has helped make a borderline playoff team to a borderline Stanley Cup team. How can there really be any other choice? Dale Tallon Consider the monumental task it has proven to win in South Florida then consider that Tallon basically built a new team that is winning in one year. He was widely criticized for his team building this summer and while he did overpay for some players, it's tough to argue with the results so far.
Paul MacLean Bonus points for the mustache that makes Wilford Brimley blush. The majority of publications/panels had the Senators finishing dead last in the league this season. Oops. The difference between MacLean and Cory Clouston has been pretty clear and the players have responded, especially Erik Karlsson. David Poile Maybe this one is tough until the offseason when we find out the fates of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, but Poile has done all he could to show the Predators are in it to win it. The re-signing of Pekka Rinne, the acquisitions at the trade deadline all while on a low budget. He's usually in this conversation and he is again.
John Tortorella Yes, the Rangers are good and that's not a great surprise. This good, however? Yes, I think that's surprising. Players have really bought in to what Tortorella is doing. Perhaps the sign of a good coach is how much the team takes on the coach's personality/style. Nobody has done better at that than Torts and Hitchcock. Don Maloney This was another team left for dead before the season began but as I write this, the Coyotes are currently seventh in the West and two points out of the Pacific Division lead. He has had so many obstacles to go through but has continued to bring in good guys and build a winner on a budget.
Peter DeBoer I feel like the Devils first-year coach is under the radar in this conversation, but why should he be? The Devils floundered last season and without changing a whole lot have been significantly better this time around. DeBoer definitely deserves some credit for Ilya Kovalchuk's evolution to a complete player, too. Doug Armstrong Brian Elliott on a two-way contract? Replacing Davis Payne with Hitchcock before anybody else could? Sneaky additions of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner? That's not a bad year, then add in that he's locked in many of his young core players. Hitchcock deserves a lot of attention for the Blues' success, but so does Armstrong.
Glen Gulutzan This was one hiring in the offseason that made people say "who?" but it has worked well. Despite the departure of Brad Richard and his offensive output, the Stars are in better position this season. In fact, they lead the Pacific Division. For a guy who is two seasons removed from coaching in the ECHL, that ain't bad. Glen Sather The headline grabber was obviously the addition of Richards this summer, but locking in his younger players might have been the better move. Plus, he has presided over a franchise that has stocked the shelves for the future, just look at the Columbus Blue Jackets' wish list for Rick Nash, a trade that didn't happen.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Hart: Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist

Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, David Backes

Calder: Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Since: Sep 4, 2010
Posted on: March 9, 2012 6:24 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Worst coach - Lindy Ruff

Since: Mar 9, 2012
Posted on: March 9, 2012 10:24 am

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

post was in reference to JasonWedge's comment

Since: Mar 9, 2012
Posted on: March 9, 2012 10:18 am

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Everyone knows by now that it was Bowman's job to file the QOs and that Tallon took the fall as the boss for his underlings. It's been widely reported that McDonough wanted Tallon gone, and that this was the perfect way to do it, so I'm not sure what your point about the QOs is, other than to look ridiculous. 

The guy has turned around that franchise in a year, making it the surprise of the season. He definitely deserves the award for GM of the Year.  

Since: Jul 29, 2009
Posted on: March 9, 2012 8:41 am

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

No one thought the Leafs would be this bad. hats off to Burke and Wilson winning the worst GM and Coach awards.Blow Leafs Blow.

Since: Sep 18, 2006
Posted on: March 9, 2012 2:51 am

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

   All are qualified and all are deserving at this point in the season including some that were left off this list. Only time will tell as the REAL season has yet to begin. The cup will determine who the best REALLY is. As of right now, it's just a guessing game.

Since: Nov 21, 2006
Posted on: March 9, 2012 2:09 am

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

I've always disliked Ken Hitchcock as a coach over the years.  So its sort of painful to see how he has done with Blues.  I'm not sure how anyone could argue he shouldn't snag the award.  Goalie play has been unreal second half also.

Since: Feb 3, 2009
Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:30 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

how does Murray not get any love for best GM.  not saying he should win, but come on man.  He's done an incredible job of rebuilding his team, through scouting, development, trades, etc.

Since: Apr 11, 2008
Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:27 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

If we're giving bonus points for "teams taking on their coach's personality and style, the Pens and Bylsma would have to be considered too.

The Pens lead the league in games lost to injury this season. All top six defensemen have missed games, Staal, Malkin and of course Crosby have missed between 10% and 88% of the season so far.

And yet the Pens are second in points in the Eastern Conference and finally getting healthy, with the exception of Letang.

Some of the coaches have worked well with individuals, some have implemented a good system but none have had to win games with their 13th, 14th, 15th dmen on the depth chart. Especially not on a regular basis.

I can accept that Ray Shero isn't on the GM list because he hasn't made many big moves this year. Clearly he's provided depth in the organisation but he's done nothing flashy.

Not having Bylsma in the top five, the coach voted by players as the one they most want to play for, is criminal.

Since: Dec 12, 2010
Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:23 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

The Blues are 36-11-7 since he took over. All I have for that is Wow!
That about sums it up...Wow indeed. There are some real good "feel good" stories around the NHL this season, but I like the Blues story the best so far. I dont think even the most die hard Blues fan would have picked St. Louis to be on top the NHL on March 8th.
Ken Hitchcock really has them going...he gets my vote for the Jack Adams Award.

Since: Mar 26, 2011
Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:21 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

What's interesting here is that Hitch was deemed a bust in CBJ. Maybe talent does actually have something to do with coaching. He also did get the axe in DAL, and PHI.

This year though he's firing on all cylinders. Makes me think STL needs to get it done this year or next. Then they will tune him out. 

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