We’ve now reached the halfway point for all teams in the National Hockey League. There has been exciting storylines and great individual performances during the season. Through these contenders for awards have started to emerge. Last Word on Hockey has made their picks for each, and here are the Norris Trophy choices. The Vezina Trophy was the first in the series. The Norris Trophy was the second trophy voted on.
Last Word on Hockey’s Mid Season Awards: Jack Adams Award
John Tortorella was the clear winner in LWOH’s vote, and for clear reason. Tortorella was signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets seven games into the 2015-16 season, after they started the season with seven straight losses. He came in to replace Todd Richards, who had been Columbus’ head coach for roughly five seasons prior to being fired by the club.
In Tortorella’s first year, the Blue Jackets were held to last in the metropolitan division once again, and things didn’t look promising for the new coach. The losses must have lit a fire under Torts though, because he came into the current season and won two out of his first four games; including a win over the Chicago Blackhawks, and a shutout over the offensive-minded Dallas Stars. That was a slow start, though, and in the month of November they only had two regulation losses in 14 games. Even more impressive, they didn’t lose a single game in December. They went on a record-contesting 16-game win streak, that was finally broken by the Washington Capitals in early January.
It’s clear that the team has turned the tides underneath Tortorella. After spending the summer with him, they came back on fire this season; and it doesn’t look like that fire is dying down. They currently sit at second in the league, just one point behind the Washington Capitals. The team didn’t lose anyone significant during the offseason, showing how well Tortorella has done with the group. The only addition they made of significance was that of Sam Gagner, proving to be a fantastic signing. Tortorella has taken the team from rock bottom to leading the league, and he only needed one offseason to do it. It’s clear that Torts has contributed a lot to Columbus’ success, and that’s why he was almost uncontested in the vote.
Bruce Boudreau placed second in LWOH’s vote, and he’s another clearly deserving candidate for the award. He was fired by the Anaheim Ducks after he lost yet another Game 7 in last year’s playoffs. Looking at him this season, it’s hard to say the Ducks are still fond of their decision. He was hired as the head coach of the Minnesota Wild and has led the team to a top three spot in the league’s standings. Although Minnesota has always been able to find their way into a playoff spot, and has never been a “bottom of the league” team, it’s impressive to see them beating the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues in the Central Division standings, and even more to see them beating out teams like the Ducks or Edmonton Oilers for top of the Western Conference.
Boudreau has clearly been beneficial to the Wild, leading them to spots on the standings that they haven’t seen in a few years at least, and taking them from the underdog of the Central Division, to a serious threat in the league. He’s also lead his team on an impressive streak, tallying 12 straight wins before becoming yet another victim of Columbus’ win streak. Still, the Wild are easily the best team in the West right now, and have established themselves as competitors for a long playoff run; as long as Boudreau can shake off the post-season bad luck he had in Anaheim.
What’s a Jack Adams list without including Mike Babcock. Easily one of the best coaches of today’s NHL, Babcock is coaching his second season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, after signing with them over the Detroit Red Wings. Last season, the Maple Leafs were held out of the playoffs by a long shot. They finished dead last in the league, but received a first overall pick in the draft as a reward. With that pick, they select Auston Matthews; and placed him straight onto their top line this season.
Together, Matthews and Babcock has led the young Toronto team to the 16th overall spot in the league. They’re also currently within grasp of a playoff spot, but are going back and forth for said spot with a few other teams. Still, to go from bottom of the league to contesting for a playoff spot is impressive, especially when you have 11 players on your roster who are younger than 24. Although the Leafs aren’t among the best of the league, like the Wild or Blue Jackets, they have still come a long way from last year; and can credit a lot of that to the All-Star coaching that Babcock brings to the table.
There are a lot of similarities that can be drawn between Guy Boucher’s season, and Mike Babcock’s season. Although Babcock’s has been more impressive, Boucher has still brought the Ottawa Senators a long way in his first year of coaching them. They finished a good ways out of a playoff spot last season, but not as detrimental as Toronto. Still, the Senators are one of the teams fighting with Toronto for a solidified playoff spot, and have had a successful season in comparison to last year.
They could be said to still be rebuilding, and for a team that arguably falls under that category, placing 17th overall in the league is impressive. It’s still unlikely that the Senators make the postseason, but Boucher has definitely given a lot to a struggling team. If he continues to benefit the team this much, they could easily become a playoff team within the next few years.
Todd Mclellan has had his troubles coaching. In seven years with the San Jose Sharks, he never got past the third round of the playoffs, and in his first year with the Edmonton Oilers he was completely exempt from any post-season play. He’s now in his second season on the Oilers bench, and this year is looking a lot more successful for him. The Oilers currently sit ninth in the league, one spot above his former team.
A lot of the success is thanks to the now healthy Connor McDavid, who currently leads the league in points, but Mclellan deserves praise too. Anytime a team can go from second-to-last in one season, to within the top ten the next season, the coach deserves credit. That’s exactly what the Oilers have done, as they currently sit at second in the Pacific division, and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.