When Ken Hitchcock (Blues), John Tortorella (Rangers), and Paul MacLean (Senators) take the stage at the NHL Awards on June 20th in Las Vegas, they may be differentiated by their experiences, successes and coaching styles but they will be united by their abilities to bring out the best in their players and earn results, a hallmark of previous recipients.
Ken Hitchcock: Hitch is the early favorite after having shattered or tied 13 St. Louis Blues franchise records and taking them from basement dwellers early in November to a divisional crown and third place finish in the league at year’s end. Having coached over 1,000 NHL games, Hitch will be looking to collect his first award in his fourth nomination which speaks volumes about his work with the Blues given that he didn’t win after leading the Dallas Stars to a President’s Trophy and a Stanley Cup in 1999. Utilizing his patented 'hard-nosed, defense-first' coaching style to perfection, Hitch has the Blues playing a rough-edged and complete game, while restoring respectability to the hockey scene in St. Louis. For more on Hitch’s coaching and personal life changes click here to read a previous story written on Ken Hitchcock.
John Tortorella: If Hitch is the favorite, then 'Torts' has to be a close second. The one-time nominee and one-time winner of the award has managed to coach the Rangers – a responsible team that blends high-end skill, quality leadership, elite goaltending – to a first place finish in the Eastern Conference with 109 points (also good for 2nd in the league). These trademarks also characterized his team in Tampa Bay that went on to win the Stanley Cup while Torts collected the Jack Adams in 2004. Could Brad Richards repeat as the playoff hero? Time will tell, but Broadway is bellowing boisterously as the blueshirts continue to impress thanks to Tortorella’s physical and defensively committed game-plan. More evidence of this is shown by the Rangers leading the league in hits and being first in the East in terms of goal differential.
Paul MacLean: This first year coach lacks the wealth of experience that defines his fellow nominees, but certainly not the smarts. The thick-moustached Sens bench-master has certainly earned respect very quickly, and deservedly so after studying under the tutelage of Mike Babcock in Detroit for six seasons. Coming into the season, the Ottawa Senators were widely expected to be on the outside of the playoff-picture looking in, but MacLean had other plans, namely guiding a team with a number of youngsters to a 13-point improvement over last season. What’s more is that MacLean showed immense adaptability having overseen an offensively potent regular season team that finished 4th in the East in the goals-for category take the heavily favoured Rangers to 7 hard-fought and defensive games in the first round before bowing out in a one-goal game, the 5th such result of the series.
At this stage, there are no guarantees as far as who wins this year’s Jack Adams Award, but one thing is for certain: whoever the recipient is, he will be deserving and rewarded for a tremendous ability to connect with players and earn success. Who do you think takes home the hardware?