There won’t be much debate about the nominees for this award. The finalists for the Jack Adams Award, given each year to the NHL’s best head coach, have been released by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association. Reported first by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the 2018 finalists are the Boston Bruins’ Bruce Cassidy, the Colorado Avalanche’s Jared Bednar, and the Vegas Golden Knights’ Gerard Gallant.
With all due respect to Cassidy and Bednar, the Jack Adams this season has been a foregone conclusion for some time, with only a race for second-place ongoing. The work that Gallant has done in the inaugural season for the expansion Golden Knights has been nothing short of miraculous. Gallant took a hotchpot of cast-off players from around the league who had never played together before and turned them into the most successful expansion team in North American sports history. Vegas’ roster is the definition of a sum greater than its parts, as no one could have predicted the success that this team would have based on the past performances of its players. That has a lot to do with Gallant, who has gotten his players to buy in to the system and it had rewarded them in turn.
Cassidy and Bednar rightfully deserve the recognition, though. Cassidy’s nomination feels like a continuation of his success to close out the 2016-17 season as well; the Bruins are 68-38-13 since Cassidy took over for Claude Julien last February. Under his guidance, rookies like Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, and Danton Heinen have flourished and the Bruins have transformed into one of the best teams in the league. No one could have seen that coming this season. Even more unlikely was a return to the playoffs for the Avalanche, however. Bednar worked his magic on a young, inexperienced, and somewhat incomplete lineup, helping Nathan MacKinnon to an MVP-caliber season and leading the team to nearly double the success from a historically bad 2016-17 campaign, going from 48 points to 95 points.
While Gallant may be the overwhelming favorite for the award this season, this is a class of Jack Adams finalists that will be looked back on as one of the best and most deserving of all time, with three head coaches who truly “contributed to his team’s success”.