On Thursday, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour was named the winner of the Jack Adams Award for NHL coach of the year. This was not a surprise and the vote tally showed Brind'Amour had won in a landslide. The other two finalists were also not a major surprise. Dean Evason of the Minnesota Wild came in second while Joel Quenneville of the Florida Panthers came in third.
None of these results were all that surprising. What was surprising, however, was the fact that Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette was not among the 15 coaches to receive a vote.
The Jack Adams Award is voted on by members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association and, like most NHL awards, voters get a first, a second and third-place vote. It is pretty stunning to see that Laviolette did not make a single ballot for even a third-place vote.
Laviolette's first season in Washington came during the pandemic with no preseason and a shortened training camp. The Capitals lost Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov four games into the season to the COVID absence list. Kuznetsov and Samsonov, the top center and top goalie on the team respectively, would be out for over a month. Both players would end up on the COVID list a second time at the end of the season.
Ovechkin would end up missing 11 total games for the season. Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek were the goalie tandem for the season, whenever Samsonov was available, because Henrik Lundqvist was declared out for the season with a heart condition before ever suiting up for the Caps. The team also dealt with a litany of other injuries that were so bad that at the end of the season, the Caps played a game missing all five skaters of their top power play unit.
If I told you before the season that all of that would happen to one of the oldest teams in the NHL, where would you have predicted they would finish in the standings? Would anyone have guessed tied for first place? Because that's where they ended up. Yet, Laviolette received literally no recognition for leading a team to a tie for first place in the East. Washington was also tied with Edmonton for the best road record in the entire league.
The Caps may have fizzled in the first round of the playoffs, but the Jack Adams is a regular-season award that is voted on before the playoff results.
David Quinn was fired in New York and he received one second-place vote. Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith received two votes presumably for coaching the Senators to a sixth-place finish in the North Division instead of seventh. Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan finished fifth overall in the voting for leading Pittsburgh to the exact same number of points as Washington.
Should Laviolette have beaten out Brind'Amour? No. Brind'Amour led the Hurricanes to a division title over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the surprising Florida Panthers. The Hurricanes are a great team but do not boast the talent of a roster like Tampa Bay or Colorado reflecting the tremendous coaching job Brind'Amour did this season. I would not put Laviolette as a finalist over Evanson or Quenneville either.
But to think not one person believes what Laviolette's season did warranted at least a third-place vote is pretty baffling.