With the NHL Awards coming up, we here at The Point will break down the finalists for the six major awards, as well as select our winners before the NHL Awards Ceremony in Vegas today. After picking our winners for the Norris, Vezina, Selke, and Calder, we’re taking a look at the men behind the bench and this year’s crop of candidates for Coach of the Year have done some truly outstanding work for their respective squads.
Jon Cooper’s case for coach of the year is pretty straightforward, his team steamrolled the opposition in the regular season on their way to 62 wins, tying the all-time single-season record set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings. They have players nominated for the Hart, Vezina, Norris, and Ted Lindsay, as well as the Art Ross winner.
They have three of the top 12 highest scorers, as well as three of the top 11 goal scorers in the NHL. Their postseason breakdown is still fresh on everybody’s mind, but don’t forget the votes are cast before the start of the playoffs, so it won’t have affected voters.
Craig Berube took over the Blues after the firing of Mike Yeo in November. At the time, the Blues were next to last in the standings, with just 17 points in 19 games. Berube’s first few months were rocky and the team ultimately plummeted to dead last by January 3rd, and the rest is history. Berube helped his team claw their way back to an unlikely playoff spot and ultimately to a Stanley Cup win, although that win isn’t taken into consideration in the pre-playoff voting.
Even without taking the championship into consideration, Berube was able to take a team that was on the verge of blowing up their roster and lead them not only to a playoff spot but to a 99-point season, just one point off the division-winning Predators.
Fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Capitals last season, Barry Trotz decided to step down and accept the head coaching gig with the Islanders. Expectations weren’t high at the start of the year after they missed the playoffs, finished dead last in goals against and lost their franchise player in free agency. Then Trotz came in, implemented a strong defensive system and defied all expectation.
The Islanders went from the worst defensive team in the NHL to the stingiest in a calendar year despite minimal roster improvements and returned to the playoffs after missing the cut in the two years prior. He also helped revive Robin Lehner’s career, who’s nominated for the Vezina after they took a one year flyer on him in free agency.
The Point Consensus Pick: Jon Cooper
All three candidates this year have an amazing case for the Jack Adams and could easily have won in a regular year but this was no regular year. The poll had Berube and Trotz in a tight battle, but we’re going against the grain and we give our vote to Tampa’s Jon Cooper.
Their playoff flop is still fresh on everyone’s mind, but once again we have to remember these awards are voted on after the regular season and no one had a more dominant run than the Lightning. They broke records left and right and scored 21 more points than any other team in the NHL, which is why he’s our pick for Coach of the Year.