by PuckStopsHere on 06/27/13 at 12:45 AM ET
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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