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Adams Trophy Voting Makes No Sense

When I wrote about the (partial) NHL Award announcements, there were a few awards that I wanted to discuss in further detail.  One was the Adams Trophy for coach of the year.  It was won by Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators. 

The coach of the year voting is never well done.  The voters tend to support the coach of the most improved team or a team that otherwise exceeded expectation.  The assumption is that coaching caused that improvement.  There are two problems to that assumption.  One is that improvements can come for many reasons.  For example, Ottawa had a significant group of rookies who made an impact with the team.  They caused some improvement.  The second problem is that a team that had a good coach last year should not improve due to coaching this year.  There is no marginal chance in coaching from year to year. 

While I believe that Paul MacLean was not the best candidate for coach of the year and I supported Bruce Boudreau that is not the main issue I wish to discuss.  Let's look at the Adams Trophy voting.  There were twelve coaches (out of 30) who received votes.  Two who did not receive any votes are the strong coaches I would have given my second and third place votes - Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett.

Ken Hitchcock is the defending Adams Trophy winner.  He won because St Louis was the most improved team in 2011/12.  He coached well in 2012/13 as well but there wasn't much room for further St Louis improvement.  As is common with teams that take big steps forward in one year, the Blues partially regressed the next year.  They were fourth seed in the West Conference - which is a very good showing.  Absolutely nobody voted for Ken Hitchcock.  That is clearly wrong.

Dave Tippett is another very good coach.  He won coach of the year in 2010.  His Phoenix team is in a shambles due to NHL ownership for four seasons.  They have been losing significant players on an annual basis and do not have the money or ownership to replace them.  As a result the Coyotes are not improving.  Despite this they missed the playoffs by only four points.  Absolutely nobody voted for Dave Tippett.  That is clearly wrong.

Tippett and Hitchcock were good enough to recently win coach of the year.  This season neither was good enough for a single vote - at least according to the voters.  Apparently neither was among the top twelve NHL coaches.  What happened to their coach of the year ability?  Has it dried up since their victory?  Are they no longer top coaches?  In Tippett's case we see that many teams were interested in hiring him if he did not re-sign in Phoenix, which he did.  That is a sign that other NHL teams see him as a top coach.  If Tippett became available he would be hired very quickly.  The same is true of Hitchcock. 

The problem is the coach of the year voters do not vote for coaching ability.  They vote for improvement of a team or exceeding expectations.  Those are things that may be due to good coaching and may not be due to coaching at all.  There are many situations where a good coach will not be on a team that improves or exceeds expectation.  These coaches are ignored in the coach of the year voting.  That is wrong and it is a sign that the Adams Trophy voting is done incorrectly.  The voters are often not following a procedure that would lead to them finding the top coach in the NHL.

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Comments

EDJ's avatar

While I agree that Ken Hitchcock is a good coach, I do not believe he was one of the best coaches for this past season. The Blues overachieved last season but that does not mean that regressing this season is excused. The coach of the year should help his team overachive this year. If you still think that the Blues overachieved by a significant margin this season, your complaint is legitimate, but I do not believe the Blues did so.

On the other hand, I agree that Tippett is a coach that helps his team overachieve every season. On the other hand, I do not believe he did so at the same level he has in years past. I think it is quite difficult also to vote for a coach whose team does not make the playoffs, because that is the first measure of success.(although I believe voting occurs before teams have locked down playoff spots)?

Of course, it is strange that neither coach received a single first, second, or third place vote.

Finally, I disagree that Paul MacClean’s coaching performance should be diminished because the rookies made significant contributions. First off, the team overcame injuries to significant players, most notably Karlsson. Second, rookies especially and players new to the team are especially difficult to coach well and it is especially important to coach them well for the team to play well. Just because a rookie is talented and works hard does not mean he will play well on a team. There are many talented players who have been busts in the NHL because they were not developed properly or they were not coached well or they did not fit into the team.

Posted by EDJ on 06/27/13 at 12:40 AM ET

Dakkster's avatar

Paul MacLean won coach of the year because he took a team that had absolutely no place in the playoffs to the playoffs. Not only were they young from the start, but then they lost their best forward, the best dman in the entire league and what was by then the Vezina leader. They lost their three best players. Most die-hard Ottawa fans gave out guarantees that their team would win at most seven more games the entire season and that was when there was 35-ish games left. They went on to play better than anyone expected and that is because of coach MacLean. Plain and simple.

You have tried to apply what you think is how the Jack Adams voters are thinking as some kind of blanket function for every year. That is not the case. Sometimes the Adams goes to a team that dominated, sometimes it goes to a team that defied the odds, sometimes it goes to other teams. Every time it’s because of an outstanding coach.

Posted by Dakkster from Southern Sweden on 06/27/13 at 01:19 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Sometimes the Adams goes to a team that dominated, sometimes it goes to a team that defied the odds, sometimes it goes to other teams. Every time it’s because of an outstanding coach.

The Adams Trophy is supposed to go to the best coach in a season.  Your method is not the same.  As a Detroit fan you should be upset that Mike Babcock has never won it - has he never been the best coach in the league?

I disagree that its always an outstanding coach.  The best counter-example is Bill Barber.  has was coach of the year in 2001.  Fired in 2002 and nobody has ever offered him a job since.  There are several other examples that are less clear cut but nevertheless examples of coaches who are not too impressive winning the Adams Trophy.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/27/13 at 01:33 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

I think the NHL coaches should decide who wins this award.

Posted by w2j2 on 06/27/13 at 05:57 AM ET

Avatar

Ken Hitchcock arguably did a BETTER job this year as he had to overcome two goalies with a .870 save %! In spite of that the team still manages 4th place. Last year the buy in was easier. The team had just gotten a coach fired and a reputable, organized, respected walked through to a team that was scared straight. They had early success and off they went.

The task was much more difficult this year. The buy in was hazy and the goaltending was horrendous. It would have been easy for the team to mail it in, and it times they look like they were trying to. Hitchcock stood his ground and kept pulling them along. Them getting 4th in the west was remarkable, and that he didn’t get even one vote is appalling.

To the first commenter considering their season a ‘regression’ from last year clearly can only look at final standing and were they went in the playoffs. It is clear they have no ability to analyze the process. Hitchcock did a better job this year than last, in spite of standings.

Posted by Eversoeven on 06/27/13 at 06:56 AM ET

LivinLaVidaLockout's avatar

I think the NHL coaches should decide who wins this award.
   
    Posted by
     
    w2j2
     
      on 06/27/13 at 06:57 AM ET

That seems fair to me - the ‘Coaches Poll’ ranking the top 25 teams in College Football each week of the season is greatly flawed because each coach does not have the time to watch the majority of teams each week, especially when they never show up on the schedule.  With the new scheduling making sure teams play every year at every arena, it seems that the coaches would be the most qualified to determine the best among their peers - I’d be all for this.

Posted by LivinLaVidaLockout on 06/27/13 at 09:33 AM ET

Dakkster's avatar

PSH: Everyone knows you have a way too simplistic way to judge hockey. Okay, so you disagree. Fine. Pretty much the entire hockey community agrees that the Adams was MacLean’s to win in a walk this year. He took a bunch of rookies and/or scrubs to the playoffs when absolutely no one expected him to.

As for Babcock never winning, that’s debatable. He’s been close. There are plenty of good coaches out there, but the prerequisites for winning changes every year, because no season is the other alike.

Posted by Dakkster from Southern Sweden on 06/27/13 at 09:57 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

quote] Pretty much the entire hockey community agrees that the Adams was MacLean’s to win in a walk this year. He took a bunch of rookies and/or scrubs to the playoffs when absolutely no one expected him to.

This statement is false.  There were 83 voters for the Adams Trophy.  55 did not give MacLean their first place vote.  Over 66% (almost 2/3) of the voters disagree with you.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/27/13 at 10:11 AM ET

LivinLaVidaLockout's avatar

This statement is false.  There were 83 voters for the Adams Trophy.  55 did not give MacLean their first place vote.  Over 66% (almost 2/3) of the voters disagree with you.
   
    Posted by
          PuckStopsHere
     
      on 06/27/13 at 11:11 AM ET

OR 56 of the 83 voters (over 67%) agreed that he was in the top 3 on their ballot.  And with 6 more first place and 6 more second place votes than second place Quenneville, that seems pretty consensus to me.  However you want to construe the numbers PSH.

Posted by LivinLaVidaLockout on 06/27/13 at 10:32 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

That gives a reasonable consensus - which maintains a pretty significant minority that disagrees - that MacLean is in the top three.  Being in the top three is a different question than winning an award.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/27/13 at 10:36 AM ET

LivinLaVidaLockout's avatar

That gives a reasonable consensus - which maintains a pretty significant minority that disagrees - that MacLean is in the top three.  Being in the top three is a different question than winning an award.
   
    Posted by
          PuckStopsHere
     
      on 06/27/13 at 11:36 AM ET

Okay, and I’d also argue that a 67% to 33% margin in a 2-candidate election would be considered a ‘runaway’, and a 34% to 27% to 7% etc. for 30 total candidates would have to be viewed in another context.  Your paint that

Over 66% (almost 2/3) of the voters disagree with you.

is moot when you consider that a third of the voters decided that one candidate was better than the other 29.

Posted by LivinLaVidaLockout on 06/27/13 at 10:45 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Okay, and I’d also argue that a 67% to 33% margin in a 2-candidate election would be considered a ‘runaway’,

I would agree if that is what we have here.  The voters picked their three favorites and nevertheless about a third didn’t pick the eventual winner to be in the top three.

Your analogy makes no sense.  You can’t have a two candidate election where voters pick their top three choices.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/27/13 at 10:57 AM ET

LivinLaVidaLockout's avatar

I would agree if that is what we have here.  The voters picked their three favorites and nevertheless about a third didn’t pick the eventual winner to be in the top three.

Your analogy makes no sense.  You can’t have a two candidate election where voters pick their top three choices.
   
    Posted by
          PuckStopsHere
     
      on 06/27/13 at 11:57 AM ET

Did even read the rest of my comment? What point are you even trying to make? All I’m getting is that you’re upset with the process and it was an overwhelming win for “Not Paul MacLean” against “Paul MacLean” but for some reason Paul MacLean won anyways.

Posted by LivinLaVidaLockout on 06/27/13 at 11:04 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

What point are you even trying to make?

At this point in the comments my point is that there was no consensus Adams Trophy winner, despite Dakkster’s claim to the contrary.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/27/13 at 11:13 AM ET

Dakkster's avatar

When I say the hockey community I’m talking about hockey fans on various forums and the overwhelming majority of hockey writers. A handful of voters don’t constitute the hockey community. Don’t be obtuse.

Posted by Dakkster from Southern Sweden on 06/27/13 at 11:20 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Dakkster

That is a logical fallacy known as moving the goalposts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moving_the_goalposts

I would argue that the voters are a better cross-section of the hockey community than your

hockey fans on various forums and the overwhelming majority of hockey writers

.  i imagine that group you selected with a significant amount of your own bias.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/27/13 at 11:32 AM ET

Dakkster's avatar

Wow. Just wow.

Posted by Dakkster from Southern Sweden on 06/27/13 at 11:36 AM ET

SnLO's avatar

I think the NHL coaches should decide who wins this award.

Who does the voting for the Adams? Please not sport journalists.

I think it should be the league GM’s. Seems to me they would know best in context of who they could’ve hypothetically hired to coach their team (who they would want).

Really, as with all voting, there is going to be a segment that agrees and a segment that does not. There was this one time a guy claimed a “mandate from the masses” with a 51% victory. This is just another example of a situation with no clear cut winner due absence of well defined criteria, strong / weak (depending on perspective) pool of candidates, and the flavor of the week.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 06/27/13 at 11:39 AM ET

Avatar

What an idiotic post.  If a coach can’t impact a rookie, who can.
So what is the time frame….after winning coach of the year, must you be in the top 3 with for the next 3 years!! 

Wow?!?

Posted by kentc on 06/29/13 at 05:46 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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