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The Jack Adams Trophy: For the First Time in A Decade, It is Not Barry Trotz

Normally, at this time of a National Hockey League season, I’d be preparing to do a sell job for Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz as the National Hockey League’s coach of the year.

After all, I am an unabashed Trotz fan. The fact I’ve know him since he was a teenager playing minor hockey in Dauphin, Man., has something to do with it, but mostly it’s because he always takes a lousy team – on paper – and turns them into one of the very best teams in the NHL. And he does it so consistently that it’s hard not to want him to win the Jack Adams Trophy every year.

Barry Trotz.

Barry Trotz.

I mean, if there is a lunch bucket team in the NHL, it’s the Predators. And the man who is truly responsible for the team’s annual success is (a) the fiercest looking coach in the NHL and (b) the nicest man in the game today.

Trotz is the only coach the Predators have ever had. In fact, the 51-year-old Trotz, has been with the Predators since their inaugural season in 1998. In 1108 games, his overall record is 518-443-60-83 and while that doesn’t sound like much, one must consider that the expansion Preds didn’t have a winning record until the 2003-04 season.

Last season, the best coach in the NHL coaxed his team to a 48-26-8 record, fifth in the West, and then got them into the second round of the playoffs.

“Barry is the fairest-minded, most honest coach in the game,” said Nashville GM David Poile. “His players love him and will do anything for him because there are no mind games, no favorites, no phoniness. Barry Trotz is a very good human being and as a result, an extremely good coach.”

I love the guy, but alas, I can’t vote for him this season. The Preds are 15-19-8 and with six games remaining, they are not going to make the playoffs. That means, for this guy, at least, it’s a wide-open race to the Adams Trophy.

And, yes, I have some people in mind, people for whom I would vote. Quite happily. Lets look at the Top 8 candidates for the 2013 Jack Adams Trophy, emblematic of the NHL’s coach of the year:

Randy Carlyle, Toronto Maple Leafs

Randy Carlyle, Toronto Maple Leafs

Randy Carlyle, Toronto Maple Leafs: Last year the Leafs were 35-37-10, 13th in the Eastern Conference. This year, the Leafs are 24-13-5 and with seven games remaining, they are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2003-04. Holy crap, that’s almost a decade. Carlyle has made Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson an NHL defenseman. His team is tough and has just come off a 5-1 waxing of the Canadiens. This former Winnipeg Jets player and Manitoba Moose head coach is my No. 1 pick as NHL coach of the year.

Michel Therrien Montreal Canadiens.

Michel Therrien Montreal Canadiens.

Michel Therrien, Montreal Canadiens: Last year the Montreal Canadiens finished 31-35-16, dead last in the Eastern Conference. The new, improved Canadiens, under the leadership of Therrien, are 26-10-5 and have clinched a playoff spot. Therrien deserves a lot of votes for the turnaround. “We’re proud about making the playoffs,” Therrien said the night the Habs beat Buffalo to clinch. “Honestly, we knew when we started the season we were going to be part of a group that was going to battle to make the playoffs and it’s not easy to make the playoffs. … It’s a good accomplishment, but that’s only a first step. That’s the way we see it. And this is the way those guys see it, too. And we realize that there’s a lot of hockey to be played and there’s more steps coming.” In Montreal, you must do well in the post-season. For the Adams Trophy, all you have to do is go from last to second.

Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks

Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks

Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks: After one of the greatest starts in NHL history, the level-headed Quenneville has kept his team level-headed. The Hawks have the best record in the West and the best record in the NHL – 34-5-4 for 68 points. The Hawks have eight games left and all things being equal, they should win the President’s Trophy. As a result, Quenneville must be considered for the Adams.

Dan Bylsma

Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins

Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins: You have to consider the head coaches of the NHL teams with the best records in each division. Bylsma is the coach of the Eastern Conference leaders and he should get plenty of consideration. Granted, he gets to coach the best players in the game, but he’s survived major injuries to three of them – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang – and he’s still got the Penguins in first place in the East with an awesome record of 32-10-0. Did you know that as a player, he was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets?

Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators

Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators

Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators: When Jason Spezza was hurt, this team was done. When Erik Karlsson went down, the Sens would be lucky to finish last – in the AHL. But MacLean, another former Winnipeg Jets player, has kept the Senators in the hunt despite the fact they have a very limited amount of offensive skill. Last year the Sens finished eighth in the East. This year, they’re sixth and could finish fifth. MacLean has worked wonders.

Adam Oates, Washington Capitals

Adam Oates, Washington Capitals

Adam Oates, Washington Capitals: Early in the season, the Capitals were 1-8-1 and looked done. Alex Ovechkin was lazy, the goaltending was horrible, there was no secondary scoring and the defense was ragged. Then Oates got the whole thing on track. Now, as the 23-17-2 Capitals are on the verge of wrapping up the Southeast Division and finishing third in the East, Oates is suddenly a coach of the year candidate. Washington has gone 22-9-1 since early February and are currently on a seven-game winning streak. That’s a nice way to finish the season.

Jack Capuano, New York Islanders

Jack Capuano, New York Islanders

Jack Capuano, New York Islanders: The Islanders have not made the playoffs since 2006-07. Last year, this sad-sack bunch was 34-37-11, dead last in the Atlantic Division. This year, with Evgeni Nabokov in goal and a mature John Tavares, Matt Mouslon and Travis Hamonic, in the lineup every night, the Islanders are 21-16-5, seventh in the East, three points ahead of ninth-place Winnipeg with six to play. If they make the playoffs, Capuano deserves a vote or two.

Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks

Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks

Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks: This guy is a really good coach. Can’t imagine Washington fired him, but who knows how the mind of Ted Leonsis works? Boudreau is in his second season with the Ducks and he’s made them the best team in the Pacific Division – better than the defending Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings. The 56-year-old former NHL player has the Ducks at 27-10-5 with six remaining. He’s in the playoffs and he could very well be an award winner.

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