To mark the beginning of the 2020-21 regular season, NHL.com is running its first installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the top coach in the NHL as selected in a vote by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The Colorado Avalanche are a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup this season. Instead of folding under the pressure, coach Jared Bednar and the players are planning to embrace and enjoy it.
“We want the pressure,” Bednar said when the Avalanche opened training camp Jan. 3. “We want to be considered one of the favorites. It still becomes about the process and what we need to do to improve to make sure that we get the opportunities that we want come playoff time.”
A panel of 19 NHL.com writers chose Bednar as the preseason favorite to win the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year. His 46 points led the voting, ahead of Travis Green of the Vancouver Canucks (34), Claude Julien of the Montreal Canadiens (27) and Peter Laviolette of the Washington Capitals (23).
The Avalanche are considered Stanley Cup contenders this season in part because of the offseason moves they made after finishing second in the Western Conference last season with a .657 points percentage (42-20-8), behind the St. Louis Blues (.662; 42-19-10). They traded for forward Brandon Saad and defenseman Devon Toews, the latter to strengthen a position led by Cale Makar, who was voted the winner of the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year last season.
It’s up to Bednar, an Adams finalist in 2017-18 and in his fifth season as Avalanche coach, to help make it work. Colorado was tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring last season (3.37 goals per game), with a plus-46 goal differential that was the best in the Western Conference and third in the NHL, even with forwards Gabriel Landeskog (16 games), Mikko Rantanen (28) and Nazem Kadri (19) missing significant time because of injury.
The Avalanche have been eliminated in the Western Conference Second Round the past two seasons, including in seven games to the Dallas Stars last season, but the standards are higher this season.
“Our expectations are to win the Cup and not just claw and scrape our way into the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs,” said Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, a finalist last season for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the NHL.
Three of Colorado’s seven opponents in the Honda West Division (Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks) failed to make the postseason last season. It creates a huge opportunity for the Avalanche to start fast, finish strong and leave no doubt why they’re projected to win the Cup for the first time since 2001.
That’s a challenge Bednar said the players are ready to accept.
“I think we’ve earned that as a team and I don’t think that is something that we should shy away from,” he said. “I think last year we had those expectations for ourselves, and maybe there wasn’t the outside pressure, outside expectations from around the league, until we got going as the year went on. But now I think that is a good thing.”
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1- basis): Jared Bednar, Avalanche, 46 points (three first-place votes); Travis Green, Canucks, 34 points (five first-place votes); Claude Julien, Canadiens, 27 points (one first-place vote); Peter Laviolette, Capitals, 23 points (two first-place votes); David Quinn, New York Rangers, 21 points (two first-place votes); Peter DeBoer, Vegas Golden Knights, 19 points (two first-place votes); Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning, 19 points (one first-place vote); Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes, 17 points (one first-place vote); Alain Vigneault, Philadelphia Flyers, 12 points (one first-place vote); D.J. Smith, Ottawa Senators, 11 points (one first-place vote); Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs, 10 points; Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers, 8 points; Barry Trotz, New York Islanders, 5 points; Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers, 5 points; Ralph Krueger, Buffalo Sabres, 5 points; Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins, 5 points; Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils, 4 points; John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets, 4 points; Rick Bowness, Stars, 3 points; Geoff Ward, Calgary Flames, 3 points; Bob Boughner, Sharks, 2 points; Dean Evason, Minnesota Wild, 2 points