When it comes to Jack Adams Award candidates, the names that enter pretty much everyone’s mind are Dan Bylsma, Mike Babcock and Patrick Roy. All three definitely merit consideration, judging by their team’s ability to remain competitive despite facing significant challenges.
But as we approach the Christmas break, it’s getting incredibly difficult not to mention what Jon Cooper‘s done so far in his first full NHL season. He’s changed the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s culture, focusing more on shooting instead of passing, while also demanding every member of the team play both ends of the rink.
Cooper made his big league coaching debut March 29, 2013 against the New Jersey Devils at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. While he earned a win, the task of changing players mentalities took time. Something the Lightning didn’t have, sitting well out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture at the time of his arrival. They ended up finishing last year in the league cellar, and as a result their brand new head coach vowed to ice a competitive team capable of challenging for a postseason berth, not only this season but in years to come.
Up to this point, Cooper’s delivered. Even if the Lightning’s recent road woes and inconsistent play won’t allow for serious Jack Adams Award consideration, he’s performed really well under difficult circumstances. His willingness to use brotherhood as motivation, through team bonding activities, have helped this team battle through adversity.
The Lightning’s 41 points currently place them third in the Atlantic Division and fourth in their conference. Impressive when you consider they have lost leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia) and top defenseman Victor Hedman (lower body injury), among others ,for extended periods of time. That led to an already young team becoming even younger, evidenced by 14 players with less than 100 games of NHL experience competing against guys older and wiser.
It’s still early, but Cooper has the Lightning outperforming expectations. His ability to keep the team focused and competitive, even during trying times, indicate that he deserves consideration for the NHL’s Jack Adams Award. Now if he can propel Tampa Bay to their first playoff appearance since 2010-11′ the league will have no choice but to take notice, and that should result in him finally receiving the attention he deserves as a Jack Adams candidate.