Earlier this week, Dan Rosen of NHL.com had his weekly mailbag post in which he fielded a following question:
"Any doubt that John Hynes is the leader for the Jack Adams Award? Jordin Tootoo is on his top power-play line and they're probably the worst team on paper. " -- @GreekGoalie35
First of all, **** you @GreekGoalie35! Worst team on paper. We aren't great on paper, but is it not possible that people got it wrong on Kyle Palmieri and he's actually pretty damn good? Is it possible that Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac are just finally in a system that benefits them? And Jordin Tootoo has 2 powerplay goals and 2 assists. You know how many people have more? 30. AKA 1 per team.
Ok, but seriously he's right we shouldn't be good. Rosen goes on to mention that Hynes is his leader. So a lot of times in the 4 major sports, the best coach award goes to a new coach. Hynes checks off that box. But has he done the best job in the NHL?
I decided to look at the most improved teams. This is the Jack Adams excel file I created for this article. The file containes differences between years and ranks by change as well as a total summary of improvements. But a snippet that I think is most palatable is listed below:
The only stat there that should need clarification is SRS. This is a Hockey-Reference stat called "Simple Rating System" which incorporates goal differential and strength of schedule.
My rating system was basically just adding rankings together including pts%, gf%, SRS, and PDO. The idea being to find the difference in actual standings, goal differential, performance relative to schedule, and the natural improvement expected from PDO (the luck statistic). According to my very rudimentary rating system, the top 5 improved teams, in order, are the Sabres, Coyotes, Canadiens, Stars, and Devils.
Buffalo Sabres: Dan Bylsma
The Sabres were ABYSMAL last year. They're not great this year, but they've improved in every way imaginable despite a decrease in PDO. They went out and got a presumptive generational talent in Jack Eichel in the draft, went out and got a true #1 center in Ryan O'Reilly from the Avalanche who weren't going to be able to afford him. Improved play from their 2013 1st rounder and new #1 defender Ramsus Ristolainen has also helped. But there's really no fighting how well they've managed the transition so far. I don't care if you add Wayne Gretzky to your team, a 12.6 increase in Corsi percentage(37.5 to 50.1) is ridiculous. The second biggest improvement was Calgary at 3.3. Dan Bylsma deserves a lot of credit and I won't be shocked if he is at the top of the contenders list for this award by the end of the season.
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes: Dave Tippett
The Coyotes are the most improved team in the NHL. Not to discredit the Devils improvements, but the Coyotes have the biggest increase in GF% and SRS, and the 2nd biggest improvement in Pts%. The only thing dragging them down is their dramatically improved PDO. Now this is not saying that they are going to get worse. Their PDO this year is 100.1 so about as close to average as one can expect. However, their 2015 PDO of 97.6 implies that a non-negligible amount of the improvement can be attributed to luck. The new bodies of Anthony Duclair and Max Domi have had a huge impact, but Tippett deserves a lot of credit for harnessing their talent unlike Bylsma who fell into elite talents in Eichel and O'Reilly. Duclair and Domi are rookies. Domi was selected outside the top 10 and is 2nd in points for rookies. Duclair was a 3rd round selection from Our Hated Rivals, and he is 7th among rookies. Tippett deserves a tremendous amount of credit with the product he's been able to put on the ice amidst the turmoil of his franchise. It might be time to get him recognized again.
Montreal Canadiens: Michael Therrien
This guy deserves a Jack Adams Trophy. He's probably not going to win it. But it's not hard to argue that he should. Assuming they stay anywhere close to as good as they are, he will have led the team to 3 consecutive 100 point seasons. That's good. 45-win streaks of 3 or more have happened 11 times in the history of the NHL.
|Tm||Span||# of years|
First of all: WOOT WOOT DEVILS ONLY TEAM LISTED TWICE. Second of all: Holy balls were the Canadiens good. Third of all: The Penguins would have had 7 if the lockout-shortened season had been extrapolated. (The Canadiens would be on this list already also) Fourth of all: HSA is the Houston Aeros who were evidently a really freaking good team in the WHA. After the Winnipeg Jets, the Aeros were the best WHA team. Fifth of all: This is an all-star list of teams. From 1989-2012 the Canadiens had 1 45-win season. If you extrapolate the 2012 season, they'd be going for their 4th in a row now -- which has happened 8 times ever -- which begain immediately after Therrien took over. Why should a team need to suck the year before in order to reward a coach? Therrien might not be there at the end of the year, but he sure as hell deserves to be.
Dallas Stars: Lindy Ruff
Lindy Ruff joins Bylsma and Tippett as a former Jack Adams award winner to be included in this article. Ruff has done a very nice job with this Stars team but man has he had a lot to work with. As if Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn weren't enough, last year the Stars went out and got Alex Hemsky, and this year they went out and got Patrick bloody Sharp. This teams offense is unbelievably stacked. However, there defense is the more notably improved part of their team, going from 3.1 GAA to a 2.5 this year. Kari Lehtonen has a Sv% of .921 which is higher than his Vezina year and he's not even their starter. So they've lucked out their as well. Finally, their PDO is now over 102 giving them the 2nd largest increase since last year (1st is OHR #frauds). So, although I sincerely respect Lindy Ruff as a coach, and think he will anchor a Dallas team that could be good for a while, I don't think he belongs in this conversation this year.
New Jersey Devils: John Hynes
The lone rookie head coach on this list -- Hynes has taken a team that was supposed to be in transition, and thrust them into contention. The work he has done turning Cammalleri, Henrique, Stempniak into one of the top lines in the NHL is unbelievable. His work with Palmieri in his transition into a top line forward is also to be commended. He's taken the various skill sets of players like Sergey Kalinin, Jacob Josefson, and Bobby Farnham and made them work in this new philosophy he and Shero have established. He's failed to right the development paths of Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas, but Severson has returned to his productive ways, and Larsson seems to have developed into our new #1 defender.
The Devils have been called a "surprise" by people everywhere (Ex: here, and here, also here). Hynes deserves recognition for what he's done. Coming in as not only a rookie head coach, but the youngest head coach in the NHL, to a team that was considered to be in not as much of a transition as a post-apocalyptic cast upheaval at every level of the organization, is a monumental task which he has handled masterfully.
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
In my opinion, Hynes is absolutely in the running at the moment. I do not think he is the best coach in the NHL this season. But, that's not really how the Jack Adams is typically awarded. Tippett and Therrien are the best coaches on this list. Right now Alain Vigneault is also in that company, joining Joel Quenneville, and Claude Julien. But, the way this year is unfolding, I think this award will come down to Bylsma, and whichever teams are still there in the end. If the Devils make the playoffs, Hynes should be considered the favorite, but could get pushed if Tippett remarkably makes the Coyotes a contender, or if Ruff manages to keep the Stars on their ungodly pace.
What do you guys think? Is Hynes the front-runner right now? How much of the credit for the hot start should be attributed to him? Were our players underachieving before, overachieving now, or somewhere between? What will the Devils have to do to make Hynes a contender? Could this be the first coach since Lemaire to make it through 4 full seasons? Leave your thoughts below. Thanks for reading!