Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol didn’t make the final cut for the Jack Adams. Was he snubbed or do those three coaches deserve the recognition more?
This past week, the NHL announced the finalists for their end of season awards. While Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is one of the last three players up for the Calder Trophy, his head coach didn’t make the cut for the Jack Adams.
This raises the question: was Dave Hakstol snubbed, or are the three remaining coaches more deserving?
Hakstol’s case for the coach of the year honor is well known to Philadelphia Flyers fans. In his first year as a professional level coach, Hakstol guided the team back into the playoffs with a 12-point improvement, making it their best regular season output since 2011-12.
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Many expected the Flyers to miss the playoffs due to the inexperience at the coaching position and keeping the same core together that failed to qualify for the postseason in the prior campaign. It was quite a feat, but not enough for the award voters.
Barry Trotz, Lindy Ruff and Gerard Gallant are the top three coaches in consideration for the Jack Adams. All three coaches deserve the accolades.
Trotz led the Capitals to a 19-point improvement and the President’s Trophy as the league’s best team in the regular season.
Ruff and the Stars saw a 17-point uptick and jumped from sixth place in the Central (or as I prefer to call it the “Norris”) Division to top billing in both the division and the entire conference.
While Gallant took the Panthers from sixth place in the Atlantic (preferably “Adams”) Division and guided them to their first division title in franchise history.
Gallant’s body of work for this season created a huge improvement in Hockey-Reference’s Simple Rating System. The stat takes goal differential and strength of schedule and calculates how above or below average a team is. Last season, the Panthers were below par with a -.23 rating. This season Florida was a .42 rating. In just one season, Gallant led a .65 uptick in SRS.
Gallant did an amazing job with the Panthers and not only deserves to be a finalist, but he should win the Jack Adams. His work this season was that good.
By comparison, Trotz’s Capitals improved by .26 and Ruff’s Stars by .39. Hakstol took the Flyers from -.23 under Craig Berube and got them just slightly under average with -.03 with a marginally more difficult schedule.
Using those numbers, it’s easy to see how the voters picked Trotz and Ruff over Hakstol. However, let’s not forget something here. The Dallas Stars were a disappointment last season, they were supposed to be good. However, they failed to make the playoffs and were jumped in the standings by teams like Winnipeg and Nashville.
This was in spite of the fact that Stars general manager Jim Nill became more active in the offseason. In the Summer of 2014, the Dallas Stars brought in Jason Spezza in a blockbuster trade and picked up Ales Hemsky in free agency to keep abreast with the ever-growing arms race out west.
The team never really came together though until this season. There is something to be said about Ruff getting it done this year, but it’s really more of meeting expectations than surpassing them.
Meanwhile, the Capitals added Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik in the 2014 offseason. That’s also when Barry Trotz was hired. He did an amazing job from the start. He took a team that missed the playoffs by three points and put them in second place in the Patrick Division. All he did this season was continue his work as one of the league’s best coaches.
Though with the additions of Niskanen and Orpik then Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie, one could argue that Trotz was merely meeting expectations like Ruff.
After considering both sides of the argument, it’s difficult to say Hakstol was snubbed as a Jack Adams finalist. He did a great job helping turn the Flyers into a playoff team.
However, those three coaches took good to average teams and made them into division winners. Those are results that cannot be argued.
You’d also have to consider the wonderful job Mike Sullivan has done in Pittsburgh. The stats and results don’t reflect the incredible improvements the Penguins have seen in their own end. But he was another great candidate for the award.
This was a tough year to crack the final three for the coach of the year honor. Hakstol isn’t alone in deserving bench bosses but this season was always about promise anyway.
And so, if this is the potential Hakstol brings as head coach, this won’t be his last chance to capture the Jack Adams.