Make no mistake, Alain Vigneault's body of work this season is front-runner worthy for the Jack Adams Award.
During 2018-19, the Flyers decided to embark on a massive shift within their hockey operations department and coaching staff. The team finished 22nd in the league at 37-37-8 with 82 points, its fewest over a full season since 2006-07.
In just one season (and not even a full one), Vigneault turned the Flyers into a top-six club. Through a shortened 2019-20 regular season, the Flyers went 41-21-7 with 89 points in 69 games. According to Hockey-Reference.com, the team was projected to finish with 104 to 105 points, which would have been its most since a 106-point 2010-11 campaign.
With the abbreviated regular season because of the coronavirus outbreak, only four teams improved their point totals from 2018-19. The Flyers made the biggest jump with a seven-point increase despite playing 13 fewer games compared to last season, while the Oilers improved by four points (79 to 83), the Avalanche by two (90 to 92) and the Rangers by one (78 to 79).
When it comes to Coach of the Year in 2019-20, Vigneault should be right there with anyone.
Bruce Cassidy, head coach of the NHL-best Bruins, of course will be up there, but ESPN's Greg Wyshynski made a great point, noting the coach of the Presidents' Trophy-winning team has won the Jack Adams honor only twice in the past 20 years.
Jared Bednar (Avalanche) and John Tortorella (Blue Jackets) should be in consideration, as well.
One coach who could sneak up and snatch the award away from Vigneault and the rest: Mike Sullivan.
The Penguins have had better regular seasons in the recent past, but Pittsburgh found a way to finish seventh among the league (three points behind the No. 6 Flyers) in the face of losing:
Brian Dumoulin for 41 games
Jake Guentzel for 30 games
Sidney Crosby for 28 games
Patric Hornqvist for 17 games
Evgeni Malkin for 14 games
Bryan Rust for 14 games
Kris Letang for eight games
Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, Rust, Hornqvist and Letang were six of the Penguins' top seven scorers this season and last season. For sake of comparison, the Flyers' top seven scorers this season missed six combined games.
That does not at all take away from the job Vigneault and the Flyers did in their resurgent 2019-20 season. It's also not to say the Flyers didn't deal with their share of significant injuries (Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton, Shayne Gostisbehere, Michael Raffl). But Sullivan's work around those losses will make him a serious challenger to Vigneault for the Jack Adams hardware.
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