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Hitchcock Has Big Edge for Coach of the Year Honors
All hail Ken Hitchcock, the coach of the St. Louis Blues who has orchestrated the most shocking turnaround of the season.
There are coaching job and there are coaching jobs, but nobody could have anticipated that the St. Louis Blues would have the most points in the NHL as the calendar hit mid-March. Since taking over for the fired Davis Payne, Hitchcock is 37-11-7. Hitchcock is not a complicated man nor does he teach a complicated system. His players have adapted to his style and he has turned the St. Louis Blues into a hard-hitting and physical team that preaches defense first and has top-level goaltending. If that sounds a bit like last year's Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, there's a reason for that. Hitchcock is an admirer of the approach the Bruins took last year and has urged his team to play in a similar manner. You can't help but be impressed with the coaching job Hitchcock has done and his players' efforts have made him the leading candidate for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year.
Here' a look at four other coach of the year candidates.
John Tortorella has done a sensational job of getting the most out of the New York Rangers. Just like Hitchcock and the Blues, Tortorella has sensational goaltending with the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist is the almost-certain Vezina Trophy winner this season and Tortorella has preached responsible defense from all his players. The Rangers excel at blocking shots and checking. They don't have a lot of great goal-scoring talent outside of Marian Gaborik and that could hurt in the playoffs, but Tortorella has turned an inconsistent and psychologically weak team into one that can take advantage of any opponent's mistakes and turn them into goals.
Ottawa's Paul MacLean has nearly matched Hitchcock for taking a team that was dead in the water last year and turned them into a playoff team that may be able to wrest the Northeast Division title away from the Bruins. Under Cory Clouston a year ago, the Senators finished last in the NHL. His players were overburdened by his negativity and his demands. MacLean is an aggressive and tough coach, but his message has been consistent and his players love playing for him.
Mike Babcock never seems to get the credit he deserves because he has perhaps the most talented roster in the league. Don't hold that against him. Babcock is meticulous and consistent in his preparation as he almost always finds the right way to attack opponents while keeping his team prepared to play at a maximum level. Babcock is never going to be outworked and he is like a competitive chess player who thinks five moves ahead of his opponents.
Dan Bylsma comes through with consistent coaching every season. His ability to keep his team playing at a high level without Sidney Crosby cannot be overlooked. He is always optimistic and positive without being asinine about it. He has gotten the most out of talented but enigmatic Evgeni Malkin. If he gets Crosby back and he can stay in the lineup, the Penguins have to be looked at as a Stanley Cup favorite.
CBS Sports - NHL Award Races
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