Calgary Flames At NHL Awards: Why Bob Hartley Wins Jack Adams


The Calgary Flames are sending an impressive number of players to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards which will take place tonight. After a surprising season that was scheduled to be a disaster ended in the second round of the postseason, there will be four Flames up for awards tonight.

Johnny Gaudreau is up for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year following a tremendous first season in the NHL, head coach Bob Hartley is up for the Jack Awards Award as Coach of the Year, Jiri Hudler is among the three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy as Most Gentlemanly Player and captain Mark Giordano is up for the Foundation Award.

Hartley pretty much has a lock on the Jack Adams Award after leading the Flames to a third place finish in the Pacific Division. He took over as the coach in 2013 at the start of the lockout shortened season and led the Flames to an improbable playoff spot this season.

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Looking at the past few winners of the Coach of the Year award, it is quickly becoming the coach of the most overachieving team award. Last year, the Colorado Avalanche weren’t expected to even make the postseason and they ended up winning the Central Division, ahead of powerhouses like the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy was rewarded for the team’s unlikely regular season success with a Jack Adams Award.

The lockout shortened season of 2013 saw the Ottawa Senators carried to a playoff berth on the back of a strong goaltending season from Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner. The Sens weren’t expected to make the postseason, but slid into the 7th seed and coach Paul MacLean collected the Jack Adams because of the team’s unpredictable success.

Apr 25, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley celebrates goal by Calgary Flames left wing Jiri Hudler (not pictured) during the third period in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the NHL this season, the Flames resemble the Senators and Avalanche teams of the past few years. After finishing with just 77 points a year ago and selecting fourth overall in the NHL Draft, the Flames were not expected to come close to the postseason this year.

Thanks to an incredible 20 point improvement from one year to the next, the Flames 97 points were enough to edge out defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the third playoff berth in the Pacific Division. A team that was supposed to be in the Connor McDavid conversation at season’s end, instead won a first round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks.

The Flames being the league’s most overachieving team certainly makes Hartley the favourite to win, but there is more to it than that. Hartley has had success in the league before, suggesting it wasn’t just a fluke that he got a lot out of his team. Hartley won a Stanley Cup in 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche, and perhaps more impressively, actually brought the Atlanta Thrashers to a playoff berth in 2007.

Hartley leaned heavily on young players to lead the team on the ice, and helped them tremendously. Sean Monahan has gone from 6th overall pick in 2013 to uncontested first line center in less than two seasons. Many coaches around the league have trouble converting young talent into elite NHL players, but Hartley had Gaudreau prepared enough in his first season to score 64 points.

Dec 29, 2014; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley (C) talks to his team from behind the bench against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Is it a coincidence that you barely heard of Mark Giordano before Hartley arrived, and for the past two seasons he would have been up for the Norris Trophy and quite likely won both if not for injury? What about how easily Sam Bennett fit immediately into the top six of the lineup of a playoff team coming out of Junior at the age of 18?

I can’t say that Hartley gets all the credit for Giordano and Bennett’s success, but he should get a lot. Certainly enough to win the Jack Adams Award.

His competition for the award comes in Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette. Laviolette joined the Predators after Barry Trotz moved on following a 16 year stint as the only bench boss in franchise history. It was a tough spot to sep into and Laviolette did an admirable job leading the Preds to a second place finish in the Central Division.

The Predators had 88 points a year ago and jumped to 104 under Laviolette. An impressive jump to be sure, but Vezina caliber goaltender Pekka Rinne went from playing just 24 games due to injury in Trotz last season, to once again carrying the load and starting 64 games this season.

May 5, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley reacts to a reviewed play in the third period against the Anaheim Ducks in game three of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Laviolette did an amazing job keeping up with the Blues and Blackhawks in the Central Division, and keeping the team focused even though number one center Mike Ribeiro was facing a pending investigation for sexual assault.

Though he did a great job stepping in for a legendary coach and keeping distractions to a minimum, how much of the team’s bounce back was due to Rinne’s health? I think a lot, and though Laviolette has proven to be a great coach, I think Hartley’s job was far more impressive this season.

The third finalist for the job is Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers. Though the Rangers won the President’s Trophy for having the best record in the regular season, Vigneault was blessed with a tremendously deep group of forwards, the best group of defencemen in the league and one of the best goaltenders in the world.

Sure, Vigneault is a great coach, but in his last full season with the Rangers, John Tortorella led the team to a 109 point regular season, and their lineup is even better now. Yes, the guy who tried to fight Hartley in the middle of an NHL game in a hallway, led the Rangers to a 109 point season. Vigneault led them to a 113 point season, and is an incredible coach, but coaches of great teams rarely win this award.

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