New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has a chance to make history by becoming the second coach in NHL history to win consecutive Jack Adams Awards.
Every year, the Jack Adams Award is given out to the best coach in the NHL. It’s voted on by members of the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association. Usually, the award is a source of debate between fans, but last year, there was no debate. New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz won it and he deserved it. But as great of a coaching job he did last season, he’s doing even better so far in the 2019-20 season.
Last season, no one expected the Islanders to be a playoff team, let alone one of the top teams in the NHL. Yet the Isles made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They went from a team that gave up the most goals in the NHL to giving up the fewest. That doesn’t happen without terrific defense, which is precisely what Trotz is known for.
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But even after last season, there were a lot of questions about the Islanders entering the 2019-20 season. The team added virtually no one in the offseason. Their biggest acquisition was Semyon Varlamov, who replaced Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner. Derick Brassard was signed later on in the offseason. People still had the Isles as a playoff team, but some form of regression was expected.
So far, that regression has not come. The Isles goaltending remains the best in the NHL, just like it was last season. Varlamov has done very well and Thomas Greiss leads the league in save percentage. The Islanders have allowed just 2.19 goals against per game entering Sunday, Nov. 10, the lowest mark in the NHL. That’s even lower than last season when they allowed 2.33 per game.
Though their offense is still not overwhelming, it has improved from last year. In 2018-19, the Isles averaged 2.72 goals per game, the 10th-lowest rate in the NHL. This season, they’re averaging 3.00 goals per game, which puts them at 15th.
The Jack Adams Award is always a hard award to predict. Hockey is a weird and unpredictable game. Who would have thought Craig Berube would have been a finalist for the award when he was hired about 12 months ago? But right now, it’s hard to make a case against Trotz.
In the Eastern Conference, his toughest competition is Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins. Sure, you can argue he has Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak at his disposal. But at the same time, you can’t deny the Bruins have been consistently among the best teams in the league since he took over.
The Western Conference probably has his toughest competition. If the Edmonton Oilers make it to the postseason, Dave Tippett, whether it’s fair or not, will get a ton of credit. The Vancouver Canucks look like Stanley Cup contenders and it’s because Travis Green is pushing all the right buttons. Rick Tocchet of the Arizona Coyotes is making a compelling case as well, as is Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche.
Should Trotz win the Jack Adams for the second straight time, he’d be just the second coach in NHL history to win consecutive Jack Adams. Jacques Demers won the award in 1986-87 and 1987-88 with the Detroit Red Wings after helping them turn things around. A second straight coach of the year award would be the cherry on top of the perfect sundae that is Trotz’s Hall of Fame resume.
He’d also become just the second coach in NHL history to win three Jack Adams Awards. Trotz also won the award with the Washington Capitals during the 2015-16 season. The late Pat Burns won the award three times and he won it with three different franchises. He won it with the Montreal Canadiens in 1988-89, the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1992-93, and the Boston Bruins in 1997-98.
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Trotz coached the Washington Capitals to a long-overdue Stanley Cup title and that might not be his crowning achievement. What he’s done with the Islanders is perhaps even more impressive. Trotz has done the impossible and made the Isles the most relevant hockey team in the state of New York.