The Jack Adams Award is presented each year to honor the league’s most outstanding coach throughout the season, and we now know the three finalists. Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings, Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche and Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning have qualified to be this season’s finalists.
All three were deserving of the honor, but New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault should be considered in the conversation. The award is based off the idea that whichever coach contributed the most to his team’s success should receive the honor. Vigneault has certainly been a big reason for New York’s success this season, and it came against a lot of adversity.
The Rangers played their first nine games of the season on the road while Madison Square Garden was renovated in New York. It was a tough challenge for Vigneault, especially since this was his first season with the Rangers, but it also helped. The long road trip brought the Rangers closer as a team, and Vigneault a little closer to his new players.
Coaching in New York is tougher than most positions because of the tremendous pressure to win there. If a coach isn’t doing his job well, they can land on the hot seat extremely fast. In fact, after a 3-6-0 start to the season, there were rumors that Vigneault might not survive his first season before being relieved.
That seems to be a distant memory now, as the Rangers had a successful season, made the playoffs and are still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. Vigneault was under the microscope even more than usual this season because of the fact that he and former Rangers coach John Tortorella essentially switched teams. Tortorella signed a contract with the Vancouver Canucks, the team that Vigneault coached for seven seasons, before coming to New York after the 2012-13 season.
It shouldn’t have mattered, but Tortorella and Vigneault were compared for most of the season. Vigneault won that battle, as Tortorella was fired from the Canucks, after a disappointing first year that resulted in the Canucks missing the playoffs.
Vigneault inherited a team that was used to Tortorella’s system, a completely different one than what Vigneault teaches. The biggest difference was teaching a man-to-man style of defense, as opposed to Tortorella’s zone defensive scheme. It was a long process, but the Rangers players finally bought into Vigneault’s style. His man-to-man strategy was executed well by New York this season, as the Rangers were second in the Eastern Conference in goals against per game.
Vigneault also had to deal with New York trading their captain Ryan Callahan to the Lightning mid-season. The team dealt with Callahan’s departure very well and Vigneault has put together a very consistent lineup that has both depth and chemistry.
Not to take anything away from this season’s Jack Adams finalists, but Vigneault definitely coached well enough to deserve consideration.