Why doesn’t the Jack Adams award go to the best coach?

Is John Tortorella an overrated coach?

He’s certainly one of the most decorated. With a 2004 Stanley Cup ring and two Jack Adams award, it’s hard to ignore his accomplishments. But despite his claim as two time “NHL coach of the year”, has anyone ever thought of John Tortorella as the best coach in the NHL at any point of his career?

Jack Adams winners since the 2005 lockout

2005-06 Lindy Ruff, BUF — 110 points (5th in NHL) — Eliminated in Conference Finals
2006-07 Alain Vigneault, VAN — 105 points (8th in NHL) — Eliminated 2nd Round
2007-08 Bruce Boudreau, WSH — 94 points (12th in NHL) — Eliminated 1st Round
2008-09 Claude Julien, BOS — 116 points (2nd in NHL) — Eliminated 2nd Round
2009-10 Dave Tippett, PHX — 107 points (4th in NHL) — Eliminated 1st Round
2010-11 Dan Bylsma, PIT — 106 points (3rd in NHL) — Eliminated 1st Round
2011-12 Ken Hitchcock, STL — 109 points (2nd in NHL) — Eliminated 2nd Round
2012-13 Paul MacLean, OTT — 56 points* (12th in NHL) — Eliminated 2nd Round
2013-14 Patrick Roy, COL — 112 points (3rd in NHL) — Eliminated 1st Round
2014-15 Bob Hartley, CAL — 97 points (16th in NHL) — Eliminated 2nd Round
2015-16 Barry Trotz, WSH — 120 points (1st in NHL) — Eliminated 2nd Round
2016-17 John Tortorella — 108 points (4th in NHL) — Eliminated 1st Round

Since the lockout, only one Jack Adams-winning coach’s team has won a President’s Trophy as the league’s best regular season team and only Lindy Ruff’s 2005-06 Sabres advanced past the second round of the playoffs. One would think that the best way to measure a coach’s success would be in wins, but the current bias seems to be for guys who “turn teams around”.

For the most part though, the Jack Adams gets awarded to the coach of a team that: a. was horrendous under the previous coach but managed to squeak into the playoffs with the new guy (see MacLean, Paul and Hartley, Bob); b. was “due” and could’ve won it another year (Julien, Hitchcock, Trotz); and c. road a hot goalie to a surprising regular season record (Tippett/Bryzgalov, Roy/Varlamov and this year Tortorella/Bobrovsky).

My biggest annoyance with the award is the fact that it rewards coaches for their regular accomplishments and completely ignores playoff success. If that was the criteria for the head coaching position then Bruce Boudreau would never be fired. Seems criminal that Patrick Roy and Dave Tippett each have a Jack Adams for getting mediocre clubs to the playoffs only to quickly get bounced, yet Hall of Fame coaches Joel Quenneville and Mike Babcock only have one Jack Adams between the two of them (Quenneville won it in 2000 with the St. Louis Blues).

Now this post isn’t about how I feel that Chiarelli or Babcock should’ve won the Jack Adams over Tortorella (although Babcock totally should’ve won the Jack Adams over Tortorella). I actually think picking any of the three to win a Jack Adams this year is pretty shortsighted and further emphasizes that this is a regular season award.

Now I think I’ve found a way of identifying a coach-of-the-year candidate in a way that takes into account both regular season and playoff success. I went through season-by-season and looked at the four playoff conference finals teams from a given year going all the way back to the 2005 lockout. I then picked the coach with the best regular season record of the remaining four final four teams from each season. The results ended up looking like this:

2017 Mike Sullivan (PIT)
2016 Ken Hitchcock (STL)
2015 Alain Vigneault (NYR)
2014 Joel Quinnevelle (CHI)
2013* Joel Quenneville (CHI)
2012 John Tortorella (NYR)
2011 Alain Vigneault (VAN)
2010 Todd McLellan (SJS)
2009 Mike Babcock (DET)
2008 Mike Babcock (DET)
2007 Lindy Ruff (BUF)
2006 Peter Laviolette (CAR)

This idea is pretty simple but I feel it’s indicative of a season’s most successful coaches. Now under my format, Torts still gets a Jack Adams in 2012 for a dynamite Rangers team that was thwarted in the Conference Finals by a hot New Jersey Devils team.

What I like about this system is that it rewards coaches who led their teams through a strong, sometime great, regular season while also winning at least eight games in the playoffs. This system gives more validation to coaching legends like Joel Quenneville and Mike Babcock while trimming the fat off of the Jack Adams pretenders. Between Sullivan, Vigneault, Hitchock, McLellan, Ruff and Laviolette there just aren’t any slouches in this group.

This system is not perfect by any means, but I feel like its a step in the right direction for identifying the best coaches in any given season. While a guy like Babcock may not need any further validation to know that he’s one of the best coaches in the game, I’m arguing this point purely on principle. I realize that the Jack Adams is voted on before the playoffs even starts, but to that I ask “why?” Great coaches are judged just as much by their playoff successes almost as much–if not more–than their regular season records. Either rename this award “Most Improved Team” and quit pretending that it represents “the coach of the year” or get rid of it all together.

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