May 01, 2008
We're not much into guarantees, but let's lay this one on the line: Bruce Boudreau will be the only head coach in NHL history to both win the Southeast Division and get name-checked on the "Slap Shot" DVD commentary track as an actor. Now watch one of the Hansons take over in Tampa Bay and ride Vinny and Stamkos to glory ...
If Alexander Ovechkin was the sizzle in the Washington Capitals' remarkable season, Boudreau was the steak: The perfect temperament and tactician for a team that looked destined for the lottery in November. In many ways, Guy Carbonneau of the Montreal Canadiens shared many of the same traits in bringing the same kind of stunning success to a team that some very smart people had predicted would finish dead-ass last in its division. All Carbo did was lead a roster that had, at different times of the season, 13 players born after 1985 to a regular season conference championship.
Boudreau and Carbonneau are up for this year's Jack Adams Award against someone who didn't share their obstacles of expectation and of inexperience: Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings, who played a stacked deck and won a President's Trophy in a competitive conference.
If we had a vote, it would have been cast for Boudreau, who was a revelation behind the bench in his first year in the NHL, following what seemed like a century in the minors. Here's the skinny on this year's Jack Adams field.
Why Babcock Deserves the Adams: Knocking Babcock because he has an amazing array of talent at his disposal is rather unfair. It's the "Joe Montana Theory": It's one thing to be surrounded by talent, but it takes real skill and aptitude to utilize it. This is a Red Wings team that was good enough to go wire-to-wire as a conference leader, but there was a time when they weren't considered an automatic. What Babcock brings to the team is a background in psychology that enables him to adapt to adversity, and a dedication to such nebulous hockey beliefs as "puck management." In other words, he's sort of a nerd; which explains his deft handling of difficult literary classics like "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."
Why Boudreau Deserves the Adams: The Capitals were 6-14-1 when Boudreau took over for Glen Hanlon on Nov. 22, but the situation was even more dire than that. Veteran players had quit on Hanlon, the team's grunts still weren't living up to their potential and Washington's piss-poor special teams continued to be like an anchor sinking the Caps to the bottom of the standings. Enter Boudreau; enter what amounted to a cure-all. Dormant players began to respond to his system and his personality. The power play went from 24th in the League last season to eighth overall this year. He's had that kind of special-teams success wherever he's coached. Unless Babcock gets a stuffed ballot from the West, or Carbo gets a load of Canadian support, this is Boudreau's prize.
Why Carbonneau Deserves the Adams: Because they vote before the postseason. Carbo's getting slaughtered for his decision to sit Carey Price in Game 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers. But in the regular season, he's a coach who pushed all the right buttons and led the team to its first 100-point season in 15 years and first conference title in 19 years. He deserves credit for managing one of the most exciting offensive teams in hockey that just also happened to be one of the youngest. Montreal arrived ahead of schedule this season; in many ways, so did Carbonneau. Could this slot have gone to Brent Sutter or Barry Trotz? Perhaps, but it's hard to put one of them over any ot the three coaches up for the Adams this season.