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Coach Of The Year

In the early part of this season I picked Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators as the leading coach of the year candidate.  He has done a wonderful job as the only coach in history of the Preds and has kept them in contention when they haven’t had a significant amount of talent.  Today they are more talented than they have ever been, but are still exceeding expectations.  Would you imagine a team with Martin Erat as top scorer could have the fifth best record in the NHL?

Trotz does not seem to be a candidate in the Adams Trophy race because of the tendency to pick the coach of the most improved team.  Nashville is not the most improved team, as they did well last year with Trotz at the helm.

Despite the strong case for Barry Trotz, I think Ken Hitchcock in St Louis has been a better candidate.

I have a lot of respect for Hitchcock as a coach.  He has done very well in all of his NHL stops.  Nevertheless I have hesitated to support him as coach of the year this year in part because he hasn’t been a coach all season.  He took over the Blues coaching job in early November.  At that time the Blues were slightly below .500 but in no way out of the race after thirteen games played.  Under Hitchcock the Blues have turned things around ad are currently in fourth place in the NHL.

The St Louis Blues are ahead of the Nashville Predators despite a slow start without Hitchcock.  They do not have the same frontline talent that the Preds have.  There is no Shea Weber or Ryan Suter to lead the St Louis defence.  They are better than Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, who lead the Blues defence.  In goal, Pekka Rinne is a more proven goalie than either of the St Louis options.  Their top scorer David Backes is a strong two-way player, but he isn’t outscoring Martin Erat.  St Louis does not have the frontline talent of Nashville and yet they have moved ahead of the Preds under Ken Hitchcock.

St Louis has made an incredible turnaround under Ken Hitchcock.  He is a talented coach and is a significant reason for the turnaround and that is why he is the front-runner for the coach of the year.

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Comments

Da lil Guy's avatar

I’m biased, but Sens coach Paul MacLean deserves a look in this category.

While Hitchcock’s takeover of the blues has been astounding, they were picked by most to be a playoff team. A team that was ready to start emerging.

The Senators, meanwhile, finished 13th last year and after a deadline firesale almost everyone had picked them to be even worse than they had been this season. Generally considered to be the shoe in for 15th in the east. Today they’re 6th - and have more points than the team in 3rd.

MacLean gets a huge amount of the credit for the Sens exceeding expectations. The players seem to be having fun and are buying into the identity MacLean has been promoting - a hard working team that never gives up on a game. Players who most wouldn’t have thought could stick in the NHL have been getting regular shifts under MacLean, who has commented that his greatest fear as a coach is looking at the game sheet and finding that a player who worked hard didn’t get the shifts he deserved. Veterans have bought in as well and the players that need to be the best have been.

With a little less than a quarter of the season left nothing’s certain, and of course the playoffs may prove to be the deciding factor on this award, but based on the way things are now I don’t think you can have this conversation without at least mentioning ‘the Paulrus’.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 03/02/12 at 04:42 PM ET

awould's avatar

Posted by Da lil Guy from Ottawa on 03/02/12 at 01:42 PM ET

You must have missed this:

St Louis has made an incredible turnaround under Ken Hitchcock.  He is a talented coach and is a significant reason for the turnaround and that is why he is the front-runner for the coach of the year.

Despite making a good argument, you are obviously wrong.

Posted by awould on 03/02/12 at 05:16 PM ET

shazam88's avatar

With you. Da lil Guy.  Trotz has done a great job, as usual, but it’s got to be between Hitchcock and MacLean.  Most people would have been less surprised if Ottawa was last in the league than seriously contending for a playoff spot this year.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 03/02/12 at 07:34 PM ET

Avatar

Hitch hand down.  This guy comes and starts winning right away and and his record is incredible.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 03/02/12 at 08:26 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I am not convinced Ottawa’s turnaround is coaching related.  Ottawa’s team Corsi last year showed they were not as bad as their record showed.  They still had Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson who are considerable talents.  Erik Karlsson has broken out as a top defenceman in the league.  There are many good reasons for their success this year that dop not include coaching.

The NHL loves to give the coach of the year to the coach of the most improved team, but I would argue that the improvement largely happened for reasons that don’t have much to do with coaching.  Paul MacLean is in the right place at the right time.  Any competent coach would have seen Ottawa make a big improvement this season.  MacLean hasn’t made as big an impact as Hitchcock or Trotz (or Babcock or Tippett or a handful of other coaches).  Giving Paul MacLean coach of the year because his team improved and he was a competent coach who was along for the ride would be a mistake.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/02/12 at 09:41 PM ET

Avatar

If you’re bringing out Corsi…St. Louis for much of the year was 3rd best in the entire NHL (they got a little worse after deciding they were sellers and trading Eric Brewer). It was just a matter of time for St. Louis, for their special teams to be at least mediocre and for their goaltending to come together.

Meanwhile, Bruce Boudreau, and Darryl Sutter have actually drastically improved the possession rates of the teams they took over. Anaheim was near the bottom, since then they’ve been over 50%, and LA went from a little under 50% to approaching 55%.

Posted by Ralph on 03/03/12 at 03:46 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Paul MacLean, by far, is the best candidate for the award.  He has taken a team with exactly 3 talented players on it, one of them pushing 40, and made them playoff contenders in 1 season.  And not only made them contenders, but made them a scary offensive team, almost as much as when they had real talent in the top 6.  Imagine what this team could have done with MacLean at the helm back in 06-07.

We’ve been told for years how talented St. Louis was with all of its young star potential, so Hitchcock has just been able to bring that together.  And still, if it wasn’t for his goalie tandem working their ass off, the Blues wouldn’t even be in the playoff picture. Come to think of it, maybe Corey Hirsch should be COTY.

And Trotz, or as I like to call him “the missing link”, is just bringing you more of the same, as long as Rinne keeps bringing more of the same.  There’s a reason that team secured Rinne first and left “the best d-pairing in the league” unsigned as of yet.  On top of that they have always been a hardworking team, and probably will continue to be competitive as long as they keep playing grinding style hockey.  Having a healthy Fisher and Weber for a full season doesn’t hurt, either.

As for Anaheim and LA, well Anaheim does this every year, and is more of a product of late season relaxed officiating then any system change.  And LA has far too many talented players putting together underwhelming performances to even mention Sutter.

Posted by Hootinani on 03/03/12 at 02:34 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.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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