What about the Jack Adams Award for Gerard Gallant?

Feb 1, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant reacts after a call during the third period against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 1, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant reacts after a call during the third period against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

All of the chatter when it comes to the New York Rangers and possible league awards has been regarding the Vezina Trophy and Igor Shesterkin.  Adam Fox is a contender for a second consecutive Norris Trophy and Chris Kreider is unexpectedly leading the race to win the Rocket Richard Trophy.  But it’s time to get behind Coach Gerard Gallant for the Jack Adams Award given to the NHL’s best coach.

NHL.com gave Gallant some love when it comes to the Adams Award in a survey of their writers. Gallant tied with Penguins’ coach Mike Sullivan for first place with 44 points, but Sullivan had seven first place votes to only one for Gallant.   Rounding out the top five vote getters are  Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour (37 points), Florida’s Andrew Brunette (34 points) and Nashville’s John Hynes (31 points).

Meanwhile, the latest Vegas odds have Gallant at +900 behind Brind’Amour  (+600), Hynes (+600) and Jon Cooper of Tampa (+700).   Mike Sullivan’s odds are +1400.

Why Gallant deserves it

Gerard Gallant has been almost a miracle worker in New York.  He’s the only one of the top contenders who took over a team that missed the playoff last season.  He’s taken the Rangers from a .536 points percentage that was 16th overall to a .681 percentage, good for fifth best in the NHL.

He’s the only coach in the group who is in his first year with a new team. Not only that, but, as we all know, the Blueshirts are anything but a complete team.  They are an analytics nightmare and can basically field two lines every night. They’ve still got one of the youngest group of defensemen in the NHL.

He’s an old school coach who fiercely defends his players and plays it very close to the vest.  From his prior stints in Vegas and Florida, he clearly gets the most out of his players and he’s doing it in New York, just ask Chris Kreider.

Is he overly loyal to players he know from prior lives?  Absolutely. Some will say that he is  committed to winning at the expense of player development.  But it’s hard to argue with results and it’s starting to look like his work with young players like Braden Schneider, Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko is paying off.

The competition

The other candidates for the Adams Award are qualified, but compared to Gallant, he wins out. Mike Sullivan has never won the award and this season he is getting the most out of a team that most considered to be past its prime. But he still has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Letang.  It was how he got the team to play without Crosby and Malkin that deserves notice.

Rod Brind’Amour won the award last season and he has been given a tremendous roster to work with.  They are having a great season, but is it unexpected?

John Hynes is having a strong season in Nashville and that has surprised many observers.  He belongs to the Gallant school of overachievers, but he has made the playoffs in both of his years with the Predators.

Andrew Brunette does deserve consideration. He’s still an “interim” coach, taking over for Joel Quenneville and has kept the Panthers near the top of the NHL.  He was an Assistant Coach for the team so he knew the personnel and they were  preseason favorite as a Cup contender.  He gets credit for not messing up a great team.

The one coach who is seeing his stock rise is Dean Evason of the Minnesota Wild.  They’ve moved into third place in the Central Division and losing only one game in regulation since New Year’s Day will make any coach look good.

Believe it or not

Not a single New York Rangers coach has ever won the Jack Adams Award. It’s only been handed out since 1974 so the odds are that Lester Patrick or Frank Boucher would have been honored in the early days of the NHL, but a few Blueshirts coaches have been passed by.

The Adams Award winner is selected by a poll of the NHL Broadcasters Association after the regular season, so the Stanley Cup Playoffs don’t count.   Considering that the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the NHL three times, it makes you wonder.

In 1992 they gave the Award to Pat Quinn of the Vancouver Canucks instead of Roger Neilson. Quinn was probably a wise choice as he coached the Canucks to a 31 point improvement over the prior season.

In 2015 it was Bob Hartley of the Calgary Flames instead of Alain Vigneault. Hartley’s team improved by 20 points and made the playoffs for the first time in six years.  Vigneault’s Rangers improved from 96 to 113 points, but the Blueshirts’ unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final the year before probably affected the voting.

In 1994 it went to Jacques Lemaire of the Devils instead of Mike Keenan and that choice is certainly worth a debate.  The Devils improved from 87 to 106 points, but had made the playoffs for five straight seasons.  Keenan took a team that had missed the playoffs with 79 points and improved to finish first overall with 112 points.  That’s a 33 point improvement, worthy of consideration even without taking the Stanley Cup win into account.

Then again, if Keenan had won the Adams Award, his quitting on the Rangers, citing a violation of his contract, would have been even more notorious.

Summing up

Gerard Gallant won the award in 2018 after guiding the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to a first place finish in their first year.  He was the overwhelming choice, garnering 525 points with runner-up Bruce Cassidy getting 153 points.  When coach of the Florida Panthers, he had been a finalist, finishing second in 2016 to Barry Trotz.

If Gallant can keep the Blueshirts playing at the same level the rest of the season, he has a great chance to be the seventh NHL coach to win the Jack Adams Award more than once.  Even better, it would finally get the Rangers a league honor that has eluded them for almost half a century.

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