TORONTO - All of the long bus trips during coaching assignments in places like Muskegon, Fort Wayne and Lowell were worth it.
Bruce Boudreau took a long journey to the NHL but made the most of his opportunity this season with the Washington Captials. He was given the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year on Thursday night, beating out Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings and Guy Carbonneau of the Montreal Canadiens.
The 53-year-old Boudreau took over a Washington team that was last in the Eastern Conference in late November and transformed them into the Southeast Division champions. He guided the young Caps to a 37-17-7 record after being hired on Nov. 22.
In doing so, he reached 20 and 30 wins faster than any coach in franchise history.
After Boudreau's playing career ended in the early 1990's, he took coaching assignments in the IHL, ECHL and AHL. He guided Mississippi to an ECHL championship in 1998-99 and led the Hershey Bears to the Calder Cup in 2005-06.
The Capitals let coach Glen Hanlon go after the team got off to its slowest start in 26 years and hired Boudreau on an interim basis. It was his first trip back to the NHL since appearing in 141 games as a player.
"I've sort of waited 32 years for this opportunity," Boudreau said at the time.
Babcock guided the Red Wings to their third straight 50-win season and was nominated for the Adams Award for the first time. Voting was done by select members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association at the conclusion of the regular season, before Babcock's Red Wings won the Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens won their first Eastern Conference title in 19 years under Carbonneau. The team did not lose more than three consecutive games all season.
Carbonneau was nominated for his first ever Adams Award.