There never seemed to be any doubt that Paul MacLean was coach of the year in the National Hockey League in 2013.
In fact, how can you argue with a Jack Adams Trophy winner who led a team into the playoffs that lost four of its best players to injury for a prolonged period of time and then went and knocked off the second-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the playoffs?
“It was important that I continue to set the expectations of the team at a high level, but also be realistic about those expectations, not try to do things that we can’t do, not try to play ways we can’t play,” MacLean said, during a conference call with reporters Friday. “We tried to stay as real as we could game by game and give the players realistic expectations and a realistic way to play the game to have success.”
Mission, obviously accomplished. The former Jets rightwinger, in only his second season as the head coach in Ottawa, has long been considered one of the sharpest minds in the game. Now he has a trophy to prove it. Considering he lost Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson and Milan Michalek for extended periods starting in mid-February, it was clear that he was even better than he was in 2011-12 when he was a finalist for the award but lost out to Ken Hitchcock.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s Jonathan Toews was named winner of the Frank Selke Trophy which is given to the NHL’s best defensive forward.
I have no argument whatsoever with Toews selection. However, I sometimes wonder if the Selke isn’t given to the guy who really is the best player in the NHL, but since that award is going to one of the top scorers in the league, let’s give the truly best player the Selke.
Listen, Toews is an outstanding two-way player and he beat out Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Datsyuk, two other outstanding two-way players, for the award. I love the selection of Toews for the Selke, although I think he should get serious consideration for the Hart Trophy, which he won’t because he’s not nominated.
Frankly, Toews was the Hart winner and St. Louis’ David Backes should have won the Selke. Frankly, Backes should have won it the past two seasons but he didn’t because he plays in St. Louis and doesn’t score a ton of points. However, taking into consideration every number that would suggest a great defensive player (faceoffs won, faceoffs won late in games, who is one the ice when a team has to hold a one-goal lead, who checks the other teams’ top line or scorer, who has a great plus-minus despite checking the other teams top line or scorer), Backes is the guy. However, because the hockey writers figured they had to give Toews some kind of an award, they gave him the Selke.
Deserving? Sure. The most deserving? Probably not.