Thursday, December 13, 2007

Coach Of The Year Pick

It's time for me to state once again that Jacques Lemaire of the Minnesota Wild is the best coach in the NHL. I picked him as coach of the year last year and the year before. He is the coach with the biggest impact on his team. His Minnesota Wild team has a 16-14 record (with 2 losses counted as regulation ties) that would hold down sixth place in the West Conference.

A huge part of Minnesota's success comes from the disciplined way they play Lemaire's system with fast aggressive forechecking and great defence. He is by far the coach who is most important to his team's success. Of course in the NHL, they tend to give the coach of the year to the coach of the most improved team. By that meaningless award distribution method, Lemaire is likely an afterthought for the Adams Trophy. He has coach Minnesota since the team expanded in 2000. There is no reason for a big season over season improvement anymore due to his coaching. His coaching was wonderful last year and remains wonderful. If any other coach was brought into the Minnesota Wild, likely their position in the standings would get worse. Lemaire is the most important coach to his team's success and thus should be coach of the year.

1) For a Coach of the year, Lemaire, would be a fine choice, but don't over look(as he was last year for some odd reason) the job Ted Nolan is doing with almost no one on the Island
I think Dave Tippett of Dallas has been doing a great job over the past several seasons. When your top offensive forward is arguably Mike Ribeiro and you still manage to be a top team in the western conference you have to be doing something right.
A general consensus among the media was that when Doug Armstrong was fired in Dallas, it was surprising Dave Tippett was not fired instead/also.
Dallas had 111 points in 2002-03, 97 points in 2002-04, 112 points in 2005-06, 107 points last year and are currently on pace for 97 points this season. Few teams have a better record during that time. He has helped turn Ribeiro, a Montreal cast off, Hagman, a waiver wire pickup, Jokinen, a 6th round pick into pretty solid players and has withstood the losses of much better players like Hull, Guerin, Arnott and the downturn in Modano's career and still kept the team winning. If those aren't signs of a good coach I don't know what are but he never seems to get mentioned as a top coach in the NHL.

As for the Armstrong firing and it being surprising that Tippett wasn't fired, well that seemed to have more to do with creating a buzz around the team and taking the team in a new direction (i.e. bringing in a more exciting style of hockey) than it did about the teams won-loss record.
Dallas is a very good defensive team. They have good defenders and good defensive minded forwards. They also have good goaltending. They do not have any game breaking offensive players. I would think a team like that should finish in a playoff berth regularly, but probably not go very far come playoff time. That is about how well they do every year. I would think that regardless of their coaching. I don't see how Dave Tippett adds anything significant to that. He is a competent coach, but hardly the best in the game. I don't see why you keep picking him as the best in the game. I don't see much argument for it.
Dallas is a very good defensive team.

To be a good defensive team you need a coach that can get the players to play a smart defensive system. Getting a team to play a smart defensive system is not easy and Tippett has to be given credit for that just as Lemaire gets credit for that in Minnesota. But there are no Gaborik's, Demitra's or Koivu's in Dallas but somehow Tippett has Dallas playing just as well as Minnesota.

As for goaltending, it is good but not elite level. They were 12th in the league last year in save % and 13th this season. They have good enough goaltending to not let in too many soft goals or blow many games but it isn't elite level and probably not as good as Minnesota's (certainly not last year).

Dallas also has good special team play which I also think is indicative of quality coaching.
To be a good defensive team you need good defensive players. When you have a team with the likes of Sergei Zubov, Jere Lehtinen, Phillipe Boucher, Brendan Morrow, Stu Barnes, Jeff Halpern, Mattais Norstrom, its probably unnecessary to invoke coaching as the number one explanation.
If Tippett had been fired, it would have been Doug Armstrong trying to throw someone else under the bus, NOT because Tippett hasn't performed well as a coach. Tippett does about as well as he possibly can given the lineup that he has, and particularly last year when there were crucial injuries to the Stars squad.

I agree that Tippett deserves consideration for the Adams. Especially if the Stars take the Pacific division banner, he should be a finalist.

In a practical sense, however, this award frequently goes to the coach of the most improved team, so Andy Murray will garner most of the votes.
Should have stated, by the way, that Lemaire would also be an excellent pick for the Adams.
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