Coming out of the 2017-18 season, the Flames knew they had to make a change behind the bench. A mere 10 days after their season ended, they let go of Glen Gulutzan. Not even a week later, they hired Bill Peters.
Peters had some of the baggage associated with Gulutzan – namely, coaching high-corsi teams that never even made it to the playoffs – but so far, it’s impossible to argue his addition has been anything but a success, and something he might just deserve some hardware for.
The Jack Adams Award is given to the coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” It’s named after Adams, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959 as a player but is arguably better known for spending 36 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings as head coach and general manager. He’s the only person in Stanley Cup history to have captured the trophy as a player, coach and GM.
The award is given based on a vote by the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association following the regular season.
- 2017-18: Gerard Gallant (Vegas)
- 2016-17: John Tortorella (Columbus)
- 2015-16: Barry Trotz (Washington)
Last year’s voting leaders
(Voting points awarded on a 5-3-1 basis.)
|Gerard Gallant (VGK)||525||102||5||0||51-24-7, 109 points|
|Bruce Cassidy (BOS)||153||2||40||23||50-20-12, 112 points|
|Jared Bednar (COL)||114||4||25||19||43-30-9, 95 points|
|Paul Maurice (WPG)||46||0||12||10||52-20-10, 114 points|
|Peter Laviolette (NSH)||41||0||9||14||53-18-11, 117 points|
The general trend seen in Jack Adams winners is that a team voters expected to be bad actually ended up experiencing success, and so, the coach gets credit for it. We saw this firsthand when Bob Hartley won the award for unexpectedly coaching the Flames to a divisional playoff spot in 2015; he was let go the following season when the team stopped overachieving and returned to form.
It was also evidenced this past season, when Gallant won the award for coaching Vegas to a Pacific Division championship in its inaugural season. Expansion teams are rarely expected to be good out of the gate, let alone that good, and it was a near-unanimous decision.
While the Golden Knights went from not existing to 109 points, the coaches of the other teams in the top five also saw substantial point additions in the standings: Boston went up by 17, Colorado 47, Winnipeg 27, and Nashville went up 23 points.
Handicapping Peters’ candidacy
The Flames underachieved in 2017-18, and it’s entirely possible they’re overachieving in 2018-19, but you can’t deny their turnaround this season. They went from 84 points the previous season – barely a 0.500 club, largely in part thanks to the loser point – to 71 points 51 games in, on pace for 114 points on the season – a potential increase in 30 points.
The Flames aren’t the only team that has improved from last season to this one, however. Under Travis Green’s second year as head coach, the Canucks have gone from just 73 points in 2017-18 to 52 in 51 games this season, on pace for 84 – an improvement of 11 points. The Sabres, meanwhile, are in Phil Housley’s second season as head coach, and they’ve gone from dead last in the NHL with 62 points to 15th, already with 54 points in 48 games – on pace for 92 points, also an improvement of 30.
The Canucks and Sabres are bubble teams, though; there are two other teams currently in the top 10 that were near the bottom of the barrel just a year ago. The Canadiens, with Claude Julien in his second full season as their head coach, have gone from 71 points – 28th in the NHL in 2017-18 – to 61 points in 51 games so far this season, on pace for 98 points, an improvement of 27. And the Islanders, with Barry Trotz coming off of a Stanley Cup with the Capitals and in his first season as their head coach, went from 80 points in 2017-18 – 22nd in the NHL that season – to 63 points in 49 games this year, on pace for 105 points, a potential improvement of 25.
Then, of course, there’s Jon Cooper with the Lightning, a team that’s been far and away the best in the NHL so far this season. His squad’s dominance certainly can’t be counted out.
It’s likely a decent field of candidates, but one that Peters should be near the top of, regardless: if the Flames stick to their pace their improvement will have been far more dramatic than most other teams, and they’d also be one of the top teams in the NHL, period. It’s difficult to argue with that.