Carolina Hurricanes Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour, despite managing to turn around the team’s season and giving them the first playoff berth in a decade was not nominated for the Jack Adams.
Each year the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association honors a coach of the year with the Jack Adams Award, given to a coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” Carolina Hurricanes head coach was not one of the nominees this year.
Rod Brind’Amour should be a leading contender for the award, given that the rookie bench boss has led one of the most remarkable in-season turnarounds in NHL history and taken the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But because the NHLBA determines the award based solely on regular season results, Brind’Amour did not even finish in the top three of the voting. This year’s three finalists are St. Louis’ Craig Berube, Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper and the New York Islanders’ Barry Trotz.
Each of those coaches is deserving of consideration. Like the Canes, the Blues made a remarkable turnaround under Berube, who was named head coach after the team stumbled to a 7-9-3 start.
Trotz took an Islanders team that lost its best player, Calvin de Haan, in free agency (they lost some guy named John Tavares, too). And Cooper led Tampa Bay to an unbelievable regular season (only to get swept out of the playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets).
It makes sense to determine player awards based on regular season play, because not all of the contenders will get a chance to play in the postseason. But it may be time for the NHLBA to re-evaluate how it determines the winner of the Jack Adams Award.
Allowing coaches to distinguish themselves based on what they do in the postseason would make the award a more accurate gauge of a coach’s overall contribution. When is the last time a coach won the award on a team that didn’t at least make it to the postseason?
No one doubted Brind’Amour’s abiity to inspire his players. He is a player’s coach. He puts in the work on the ice and in the coach’s office. The players respond to his passion for the game, for the franchise and for them.
Motivating players is only part of a coach’s job. The other part involves developing a game-plan and then making adjustments to that plan during a game. Brind’Amour has proven to be a master at this, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He thoroughly out-coached Washington’s Todd Reirden in the opening series and countered every move the more experienced Trotz made in a memorable four-game sweep of the Islanders.
During the regular season, Brind’Amour showed a preference for sticking with his lineups during a game. He rarely changed his lines unless an injury forced his hand or he wanted to send a message.
“Generally you hope to put the lines together you think will work,” Brind’Amour said. “You don’t necessarily want to stray from that right away, because all year it has worked in my opinion.”
During the playoffs, he’s turned into Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, tinkering with his lineups like a mad scientist to find the right combination. In the series against the Capitals, he made the gutsy decision to alter his defensive pairings when it became evident that Dougie Hamilton’s gambling style did not match up well against Alex Ovechkin.
In the series-clinching 5-2 win over the Islanders on Friday, Brind’Amour switched up his top three lines after the first period, when the team was held to six shots and scored only because an Islanders player inadvertently poked the puck into the Canes’ net during a power play.
“I thought we had good line combinations and the matchups were good, and right away I could tell in the first this was not going to work,” he said. “So we had our plan B ready to go and we went with it.”
One of the big moves involved reuniting Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho and adding in rookie Andrei Svechnikov. The trio contributed to the go-ahead goal on their first shift of the second period, and Svechnikov finished the scoring on a breakaway late in the third period.
“Andrei hadn’t played much,” said Brind’Amour. “He was fresh and we needed to get him up there more. It was an easy switch.”
Brind’Amour’s team has advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, while Trotz and Cooper have begun their offseasons. Berube is still alive, although the Blues trail Dallas 3-2 in their Western Conference semifinal matchup.
If Brind’Amour winds up outlasting all three Adams Award finalists in the postseason, whoever’s name ends up on that trophy will know they should have finished second in the balloting.