The finalists for the Jack Adams Award have been announced, given each year to the NHL’s best head coach. The three coaches are Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues, Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders. The award was given to Vegas Golden Knights’ head coach Gerard Gallant in 2018, and Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella in 2017.
In 2016, Trotz won the award when he was still coach of the Washington Capitals after a 56-18-8 season. Two years later he would lead the Capitals to his first Stanley Cup, before moving onto the Islanders organization this season. Trotz has completely turned around those Islanders, changing them from one of the worst defensive teams in hockey to one of the best in short order. He put together a 48-27-7 season to get his club into the playoffs despite losing their captain John Tavares in the offseason, and has them in the second round after sweeping his old rivals from Pittsburgh. Trotz is one of the most successful regular season coaches in hockey history, with 810 wins to his name.
Cooper meanwhile is on his way to that same level of regular season success. Through his first 508 games he has authored a record of 305-159-44 (.644 winning percentage) including a historic 62-16-4 record this season with Tampa Bay. Unfortunately his Lightning were swept out of the first round of the playoffs, an occurrence that is not considered for this award given that the broadcasters vote before the postseason begins. Cooper has never won the Jack Adams before.
Neither has Berube, who amazingly is still not actually the permanent head coach of the Blues. The former Philadelphia Flyers bench boss was named interim coach when Mike Yeo was fired early in the season, but he found a way to turn things around dramatically and form St. Louis into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. There is little doubt that he will be named the head coach after taking a Blues team that was in last place on January 2nd to the second round and beyond. Berube doesn’t have an extensive history as an NHL head coach, but it has been a successful one, as he now holds a 113-77-34 record in his career.
Some other names that were likely considered are Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who dealt with endless injuries but still almost got his team to the playoffs, and Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour who finally got his team back there after nearly a decade.