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: Apr 3, 2009
Posted on: March 8, 2012 9:47 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Too bad for the Capitals. They should have hired Hitch after last season. With the style of play management was going for, Hitch would have been the perfect guy to fix up that team. 

Since: May 20, 2009
Posted on: March 8, 2012 8:00 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

As a huge sens fan, I gotta say, what Maclean has done with Ottawa has been ridiculous.  Like the article said, they were pegged to finish dead last by basically everyone, and yet they're in the thick of the playoff hunt, holding their own with any team they play, and it's with basically the same roster as last year.

That said, I think Hitch takes this one.  I'm sure someone will post the stat of what the team was when he took over, (i think it was basically a 6-7 record or something) but for them to be leading the league based off of how they've been over the past couple years, yikes. 

fellow sens fans/maclean supporters, don't get me wrong, what MacStache has done in Ottawa has been nothing less than coach of the year quality, and I'm pretty sure if Hitch wasn't making the Blues play so lights out, he'd walk away with it, no questions asked.  But for the Blues to be playing at the clip that they're going at, all year long, I don't think it can be ignored.  And to go against Ottawa/MacStache... last year, it was a gongshow to put it nicely.  Pretty much everyone had career-worst years (Gonchar, Phillips, Kuba, Elliott, Alfie, Michalek was hurt, Spez was hurt, Karlsson wasn't playing at this clip, etc), so a lot of things that could go wrong last year, did.  This year, obviously a big time turn around, but a bit of a bounce back has to have been expected.  It's not like all those guys were going to have repeat performances, so natural improvement had to be expected.

The only way I see MacStache taking the award is if Ottawa somehow sneaks into the division lead, which I really don't think would happen.  Winning the division vs. finishing 6/7/8th I think would be the difference.  And even at that, it would be just as much Ottawa playing lights out as the season winds down, as it would be Boston sucking for the last month of the season. At this point though, as a die-hard sens fan, then being in the playoff hunt is more than enough gravy for me at this point!

Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: March 8, 2012 6:22 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Hitchcock and Armstrong.  I don't like either one of them and haven't been impressed with either one of them in years.   They had great years and made as many or more changes than almost all their fellow coaches and gms.

The others didn't have to do enough or didn't accomplish enough to compete imo.

DeBoer and Maloney would be my runners-up.

Since: Dec 27, 2006
Posted on: March 8, 2012 5:35 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Love me some Hitch. A great coach, and a good guy off the ice. Met him at a Dallas Stars function in 2000. Here's a guy who just won the Stanley Cup, but he still had time to make small talk with my 9 year old son about the finer points of playing defense.

Dougie Armstrong knew Columbus was about to jump on Hitch (they still had him under contract), so he made a pre-emptive strike. That makes Armstrong my executive of the year.

Since: Mar 8, 2012
Posted on: March 8, 2012 4:17 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Agree 100% about Hitch; it shows the  ineptness of Blue Jackets management.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: March 8, 2012 4:10 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Tallon built the Stanley Cup Hawks...if he hadn't forgotten to file paperwork that cost the team millions and players...he would still be in Chicago I think....

Since: Nov 17, 2011
Posted on: March 8, 2012 3:42 pm

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

The Blue Jackets were idiots for letting Hitch go. They should have given him the coaching job back.

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