It is never too early to start the award talk around professional sports. After all, it is always good to have an idea of what’s happening around the league, in terms of who is doing well and who is doing poorly.
First up in some first-half award talk will be some frontrunners for the NHL’s Jack Adams Award for coach of the year!
Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils
At this point, Lindy Ruff is absolutely the favourite to win the Jack Adams Award this season. He hits both of the main criteria for coaches getting award attention. A massive turnaround year-over-year and a top team in the league.
It’s been quite the story for Ruff this season, as the early indications were that it was going to be yet another challenging year for the Devils after losing both of their first two games 5-2, Miles Wood publicly saying he was sick of being on a bad team, and the Devils being booed off the ice in their home opener with chants of ‘Fire Lindy’ in the crowd.
But since those two games, the Devils have gone 19-2, including a 13-game win streak. And so much of the team’s strong play comes from the system and how the players are fitting in, buying in, and performing well in the roles they’ve been given.
If the Devils find themselves at or near the top of the Metro Division by the end of the season, Ruff is the favourite for the Jack Adams Award.
Pete DeBoer, Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars are beating expectations this season. They currently lead the Central Division, notably above the defending Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche, and have improved year-over-year despite minimal roster changes.
One of the biggest reasons Pete DeBoer will find himself as a Jack Adams Award frontrunner is how different the team is playing compared to past seasons. This is testament to the impact that he is having on the Stars.
The Stars are currently averaging almost a goal per game more than they had in any season under their previous coach, and find themselves at the top of the league in total goals for. The clear impact that DeBoer is having on the performance of his team and the way they play is why he stands out as a frontrunner for the Jack Adams Award.
Bruce Cassidy, Vegas Golden Knights
Another new coach, another team at the top of the NHL standings. Bruce Cassidy was regarded as one of the league’s best coaches during his tenure with the Boston Bruins, and so far he is living up to expectations in coaching the Vegas Golden Knights.
After a tricky season in Vegas plagued by injuries and ultimately missing the playoffs, they have rebounded in a big way as they have a comfortable lead on the Pacific Division and sit near the top of the league in goals for and against.
All of this despite having a weaker roster than they have had in past seasons and a rookie goalie leading the way.
It is a testament to what Cassidy can bring to an organization that he was able to get the Golden Knights back into a top-of-the-league contender position.
Dave Hakstol, Seattle Kraken
He entered the season as a coach on the hot seat. But after a strong start, Dave Hakstol and the Seattle Kraken are sitting in a playoff spot. He has the year-over-year improvement criteria for the Jack Adams Award and finds himself in a much better position now than at the beginning of the season.
The biggest change, however, is in goaltending. Last season the Kraken were held back by some bottom-of-the-league goaltending. This season, with apparent saviour Martin Jones tending the crease, the Kraken have a surprisingly strong roster. Even with an average offense, they are one of the better teams defensively around the league and that is giving them a huge boost in performance.
Jim Montgomery, Boston Bruins
He took over a team that was poised to start regressing and has led them to one of the best starts in NHL history. Jim Montgomery took over for Cassidy as head coach of the Boston Bruins at a time when the direction of the team was a perplexing, baffling mess. Generally, it was believed that the aging core and depth issues would finally start taking a toll on the Bruins’ dominance over the past decade-plus.
But with a 19-3 start, those fears couldn’t be further from the truth. Boston is top of the league in both goals for and against, led offensively by David Pastrnak and in net with a Vezina-calibre performance by Linus Ullmark.
The depth has been crucial for sustaining this start, as the Bruins have 10 skaters with 10 points already, just 23 games into the season. After this depth scoring has been an issue for a couple of years, it is great news for Boston that the bottom-nine forwards are clicking already.
Those are the five coaches most likely to be Jack Adams Award frontrunners in the early stages of the 2022-23 season! Who would you add or take off of this list? Drop a comment down below!
Main Image Credit Hockey Hall of Fame