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The Puck Stops Here

John Tortorella As A Coach Of The Year Candidate

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the midst of a 12 game winning streak.  They have a  record of 23-9 with four regulation tie points for 50 points.  This puts them in first place in the NHL right now.  Since last year they finished second last in the East Conference, they are the most improved team in the NHL.  Typically the Jack Adams Trophy is given to the coach of the most improved team.  Thus Columbus coach John Tortorella is the leading candidate for coach of the year in many people's minds.

The main problem is there is no statistic that shows good coaching.  In the hunt for one, people have used team improvement as a proxy.  The problem with that measure is that there are some teams that have had the same coach for a few years and there is no reason to expect improvement year to year unless the team underachieved under the coach last year.   The other problem is that teams improve for many reasons.  The most common reason for improvement is probably better players and not coaching.  Is this the case in Columbus?

John Tortorella has had a lengthy coaching career.  He won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.  He was relatively successful with the New York Rangers.  His tenure with the Vancouver Canucks was an unsuccessful one.  He coached the US World Cup team to failure.  It was predicted that he could be the first coach fired this season.  That prediction has turned out to be a very poor one.

Tortorella is a coach that relies upon keeping his players motivated much more than for tactical reasons.  He has to connect with his team on an emotional level.  Sometimes he has succeeded in that regard and sometimes he has failed.  When that connection is made he has done well.  It seems that connection is best made when he has a talented young team.   It happened in Tampa with Martin St Louis, Vincent LeCavalier and Brad Richards.  It appears to be happening again in Columbus.

The Columbus improvement has happened for several reasons.  Perhaps the strongest is Sergei Bobrovsky's play.  When healthy he is a strong goalie, but he hasn't always been healthy.  Last year he posted a .908 saves percentage with a 2.75 GAA.  This year he has improved to .935 and 1.87.  That is an almost one goal per game improvement.  They also have significant offensive improvement with Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno, Zach Werenski and Sam Gagner all performing above expected levels.  Some of those players may have unsustainable numbers at this point, but there is enough young talent to carry a team. 

All told, I think John Tortorella is having a good season at coach.  He is a solid NHL coach as long as he connects emotionally with his team.  He isn't the best coach in the NHL but he is the coach in the best situation right now.  He is lucky to be in the right place at the right time.  He probably should appear down ballot for the Adams Trophy this year, but he is not the best coach in the league this season.

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About The Puck Stops Here

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.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com