The National Hockey League 2018-2019 season has been filled with fun, close contests and questions. Some of them are finally being answered, such as playoff positioning, elimination and qualifications.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the first team in the 2018-2019 season to qualify and lock a playoff berth, and while the roster is stacked with phenomenal players, many seem to think their coach Jon Cooper, the league’s most tenured coach with one team (stated in Sports Illustrated), is the most deserving and the most obvious choice for the Jack Adams award, given to the best coach of the regular season in the NHL.
It’s true that Cooper isn’t just a mastermind at not only tactics and keeping his players engaged and focused on a daily basis, he’s also had a knack of fixing issues and holes that have exposed the Lightning in situations such as last year’s Eastern Conference Championship implosion, in which the Lightning sunk Game 6 and Game 7 to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. As Sports Illustrated showed in one of their early 2019 issued magazines, the Lightning, thanks to Cooper and his staff see this season and this postseason as something they want to avenge and put behind them. They’re focused on playing their best, especially on the Power Play, a part of the game where the team with the most players on the ice (minus the goalie) is on offense for a minimum of two minutes.
While Cooper is an outstanding pick, there are cases around the rest of the league. Barry Trotz, who was the coach of the champion Capitals last year, is with the New York Islanders this year, due to the Washington organization declining to give him a much bigger contract. Trotz had the Islanders in first place for over two months in probably the toughest division in the Eastern Conference.
There’s also the division rival Montreal Canadiens’ coach Claude Julien, who’s given his team a shot at the seventh or eighth seed. He might be my personal pick considering the organization traded away their top scorers before the season began and have yet to fall flat. The Canadiens have competed and proven they can have an advantage against some playoff caliber teams in their conference, even if their best player on the team is goalie Carey Price.
Other good candidates include Bill Peters for his handiwork in Calgary, Rod Brind’Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes, and mid-season hire Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues.