All right. Don’t overthink this. It’s almost as easy as giving out the Art Ross Trophy.
Patrick Roy is the obvious, slam-dunk, no-brainer award winner of the Jack Adams Trophy. Mike Babcock and Jon Cooper take a bow, since you’re both worthy of being finalists, but take a step back behind Roy as you do, because he’s the rightful winner in 2014.
For some reason, unbeknownst to the reasonable, Paul MacLean makes it cool to coach through injuries last season, and suddenly substantial parts of the hockey world decide that’s now the new criteria for taking home the Jack Adams. Hence the growing social media sentiment that Babcock, especially, and Cooper are more deserving because they went without their star players for sizable portions of the season.
It would have been impressive if Babcock had coached the Detroit Red Wings into first in the Atlantic this season. But he didn’t. Detroit finished fourth in the Atlantic, eighth in the East and 15th overall. In 2012-13, the Wings finished third in the Central, seventh in the West and 13th overall. So, without Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for half the season, Babcock led the Wings to the playoffs with poorer place finishes in a much weaker conference.
Cooper, meanwhile, did a similar though more successful trick with the Tampa Bay Lightning, taking them from third-worst overall in 2012-13 to second in the Atlantic, third in the East and eighth overall, while going without Steven Stamkos for all but 37 games. (If anything, Cooper’s work with the Lightning tops Babcock’s with the Wings.) Still, it’s not quite near the magical turnaround Roy pulled off with the Colorado Avalanche this season.
Let’s not forget, Roy inherited an outstandingly bad Colorado Avalanche club that most media outlets, including The Hockey News, picked to finish last in the Central Division. Heck, we were tempted to pick them eighth.
They finished last in the now no-more Northwest Division, last in the Western Conference and second-last in the NHL in 2012-13, one point worse than the Lightning and ahead of only the Florida Panthers, and hadn’t made the playoffs since 2010.
Roy’s No. 1 goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, had a 3.02 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage and looked every bit like a bust for the first- and second-round picks Colorado handed to Washington in 2011 to get him. In front of Varlamov was a defense made up of Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda and a bunch of no-name Lake Erie Monsters. Upfront was a group of young talented forwards that were trending toward Edmonton rather than Chicago.
He took that team and made it the third-best in the NHL with 112 points.
It took until Game 47 for Colorado to win its 16th game last season. Under Roy the Avalanche did it in 21. Not only did they not finish last in the Central, they beat out both the Blues and the Blackhawks for top spot in the division. Hands up if you saw that one coming.
Babcock is the sexy pick for getting the Wings into the playoffs while missing both Datsyuk and Zetterberg for 37 games each. And Jon Cooper could get consideration for resurrecting the Bolts without Stamkos for the majority of the season. That Babcock hasn’t won the Jack Adams yet is an embarrassing error, but just because he should have won it years ago (perhaps multiple times) is no reason to give it to him now. And recall that Cooper was hired midway through last season, whereas Roy was a first-year coach.
Sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer. This is one of those times. So keep it simple, smart guys, and go with Roy. You may be Captain Obvious for doing so, but it’s better than being Captain Oblivious for not.