Battle for the Jack Adams – Cooper vs Roy

Annually one of the most hotly debated awards, the Jack Adams rewards the coach who is “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success”.

Fellow InGoal Magazine writer, and Canucks reporter for AM 650 in Richmond, British Columbia, Greg Balloch and I exchanged tweets earlier this, week exalting the virtues of our respective choices for the Jack Adams.

For Greg, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper (@CoopersLaw) has been the stand out this season – for me, it was Colorado supremo Patrick Roy.

Here, Greg makes his case for the Lightning bench boss, while I champion St. Patrick’s cause.

Jon Cooper

Why Jon Cooper Should Win the Jack Adams Award – Greg Balloch

Jon Cooper has completely turned the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise around since he was hired from the team’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse on March 25, 2013. The success he is having with Ben Bishop in net and Victor Hedman this season is enough to put him in discussion for the Jack Adams award, but it’s how well he managed the Steven Stamkos injury through the use of unknown rookie Tyler Johnson that puts him over the top.

General Manager Steve Yzerman deserves some credit, too. Nine days after he named Cooper his team’s head coach, he pulled the trigger on the Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop trade. Those were some risky moves that have really paid off.

Cooper was fast-tracked through the Lightning organization. He won the AHL’s Calder Cup with Norfolk in 2012, was the AHL’s most outstanding coach, and coached the Syracuse Crunch (after Tampa switched affiliates) to the best record in the league the next season before getting hired by the big club. Success seems to follow him wherever he goes.

Cooper and goalie coach Frantz Jean’s work with Bishop should not go unnoticed. Bishop currently leads the league in save percentage, and has a goals against average under 2. It’s hard to compare his stats in his career – he’s already played a career high 39 games this season, his previous high was only 22 the season before. One interesting comparison is if you look at his save percentage from the start of 2012 until his trade, then after the trade. The amount of consistency he is displaying now is remarkable.

chart

He was barely putting up league-average save percentage numbers in the year leading up to his trade out of Ottawa, but has been well above-average for the majority of the time since the trade. If you talk to Bishop, he credits his coach’s system, but Jean’s work making Bishop a more conservative, less active goalie in the crease deserves some of that credit as well. His new technical tweaks have sometimes resulted in him being over-conservative, but with size like that and the numbers he is putting up, it is hard to nit pick.

Victor Hedman is one of the other players that has seen great strides in his game since Cooper took over. He has doubled his career high goal total in only 46 games, and only five other defenceman in the entire league have more than his ten goals this season. His five-on-five Corsi for percentage has also improved by almost ten percent since 2011-12, so the Lightning as a team are getting more scoring opportunities when he is on the ice. This has all not-so-coincidentally occured since Jon Cooper took over as the head coach. Hedman has always been great defensively, but this new offensive element to his game has turned him into the impact player that all the scouts thought he could be.

Everybody thought that the Lightning would struggle after Steven Stamkos went down with his broken tibia injury. Since the injury, the Lightning have shocked everybody and have posted an outstanding 19-11-5 record. Cooper has done a great job of settling his team down, and handing more responsibility to rookie forward Tyler Johnson. Johnson was never drafted, stands 5’9″ tall, but trails only Nathan MacKinnon for the rookie points lead. He uses his captain Martin St. Louis as his role model, and Jon Cooper certainly deserves credit for recognizing the similarities in the two players.

Patrick Roy is the other major candidate for coach of the year, for turning around the Colorado Avalanche. His effect on Semyon Varlamov has certainly been great, as the Avs have relied on their goaltending to make up for their lack of defence. The Avalanche have a much stronger core than the Lightning, and enjoyed the addition of the #1 overall draft pick in MacKinnon. It has not been an easy task for either coach, but Cooper has certainly faced a little more adversity than Roy.

There are strong arguments for both coaches, but Jon Cooper has had to make more adjustments than Roy in Colorado. Nobody could have predicted that the Lightning would continue to flourish after losing their best player, and possibly the best goal scorer in the NHL. Cooper did it, and has turned Ben Bishop, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson into star players in the process.

Patrick Roy

Why Patrick Roy Should Win the Jack Adams Award – Rob McGregor

During the summer, Colorado underwent the most radical overhaul of the clubs front office since the franchise arrived in Denver. After finishing 29th overall during the truncated 2012/13 season, with two of the worst defensive and offensive records in the league, Roy and former Captain Joe Sakic were brought in to try and turn the struggling Avalanche around.

Whilst most clubs would settle for steady progression, the Avalanche have taken huge strides under Roy – seemingly ignoring the fact realignment put them in a Division with defending champions Chicago, the powerhouse St Louis Blues and other solid outfits like Minnesota and the resurgent Stars.

Their 33-14-5 record has been propped up by their vastly improved defensive play and rejuvenated offence, led by Haliburton native Matt Duchene.

Duchene is emerging as a legitimate NHL superstar under Roy, and has even been mentioned as a candidate for the Hart Trophy; but Roy’s biggest influence may have been at the back.

I’ve frequently defended the Erik Johnson trade, with then GM Greg Sherman seeking to add a franchise D man. Whilst Johnson may have struggled previously, both due to injury and the expectations that come with being a first overall pick, under Colorado’s new coach he has excelled – getting himself back in the frame for Team USA’s Olympic roster and providing the Avs with a leader on the blue line.

The addition of Roy’s long time goaltending coach Francois Allaire has also given Russian netminder Semyon Varlamov a new lease of life.

The former Capitals stopper is on course for the best season of his career, after struggling with both consistency and injury in the US capital and Denver previously.

Paul Stastny has also enjoyed a renaissance under Roy, whilst the former Montreal and Colorado superstar helped seamlessly facilitate the move of Ryan O’Reilly to the wing, handling one of the clubs biggest question marks with relative ease. The addition of MacKinnon to a small, but talented, group of young forwards left the club incredibly deep at centre but limited along the boards.

Switching O’Reilly’s to the left wing has set the 22-year old on course for his best season since breaking in to the NHL in 2009, as well as going a long way to repairing a fractured relationship between club and player following some difficult contract negotiations last year.

Whilst Cooper rightly deserves plaudits for the success Tampa Bay have had this season, especially without superstar centre Steven Stamkos, the way in which Roy has reinvigorated the team from the crease out, whilst also competing in a much tougher Division, mean he is my pick for the Jack Adams.

***

Thanks to Greg for sharing his thoughts on the battle for the Jack Adams Award. You can follow him on Twitter @GregBallochST

Do you agree with Greg that Cooper deserves to win the Jack Adams this year? Or is Roy your man? Perhaps you think someone else is in the driving seat for this seasons award?

You can leave a comment below, or email One Puck Short at onepuckshort@gmail.com and let us know what you think!

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on January 30, 2014, in Colorado Avalanche, Hockey, NHL, Tampa Bay Lightning and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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