In our "Why Your Guy Won't Be Coach of the Year" piece just over a month ago, we labeled San Jose Sharks Coach Todd McLellan as someone who wouldn't get the credit he deserved around awards time because his team was "too talented."
It's with acknowledgement of hypocrisy that we now say McLellan shouldn't be a Jack Adams Award finalist, even as he was announced as one today by the NHL.
He's a worthy candidate; but his slot in the top three comes as the expense of a slew of other candidates who did more heavy lifting this season and eventually made the postseason for their efforts: Paul Maurice of the Carolina Hurricanes; Randy Carlyle of the Anaheim Ducks; Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks; and especially Brent Sutter of the New Jersey Devils. (Guys like Barry Trotz and Peter DeBoer needed to make the playoffs; Dan Bylsma needed about 20 more games on his bio.)
Is there any argument that can be made for McLellan's coaching job in the regular season being more impressive than that of Sutter? The Sharks improved by nine points, the Devils by seven, playing nearly the entire season without their franchise player. Sutter's team improved offensively by 38 goals, and actually lowered its goals-against with Martin Brodeur out of the lineup en route to a division title. It's ridiculous that the voters didn't reward a season that saw Sutter lead to the Devils to a team-record 51 wins.
Again, this isn't an attempt to besmirch the good coaching of Todd McLellan. But there were better choices to join Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins and Andy Murray of the St. Louis Blues in the final three.
Why Claude Julien deserves the Jack Adams: Criticized in the past for a style that was too conservative at times, Julien finally struck the right balance. Last season, the team was 23rd in goals scored; this year, they were second while leading the NHL defensively. His management of a deep and talented roster turned a No. 8 seed in 2008 into a conference No. 1 seed in 2009.
Why Todd McLellan deserves the Jack Adams: Our preferences for other candidates aside, there's no debating 117 points, the President's Trophy and the changes McLellan made to the Sharks' system; changes that resulted in an increase of 33 goals-scored as a team from the previous season. Were he to win the award, it would be a testament to his ability to maintain and build upon the team's previous success, which isn't as easy as it sometimes appears.
Why Andy Murray deserves the Jack Adams: Because if we had told you that the Blues would be a No. 6 seed in the Western Conference the day after Erik Johnson was attacked by a satanic golf cart, you would have called us crazy. And you would have done the same when Eric Brewer was injured, or when Paul Kariya was injured, or when Manny Legace was injured by Sarah Palin's bad juju. And yet that's where Murray led them. The qualifications for "Coach of the Year" can be pretty nebulous sometimes, but in Murray's case you have one absolutely tangible bit of evidence in his favor: He took over the power play in the offseason, and the unit went from last in the NHL to eighth. So there you go.
Julien should win the award, and that's both a predictive and laudatory statement. Murray did an outstanding, nearly Herculean job to make the playoffs; but Julien's conference title is more impressive than a sixth seed.