Dave Tippett has no specific plans for the six-day NHL All-Star break.
“Just going to take it easy at home for a few days,” the Coyotes coach said via text. “Very quiet.”
Tippett has earned the rest. In just 49 games, the Coyotes have matched their win total from the previous season (24) and are three points shy of the 56 they earned last year in what was a soul-searching season of reckoning for the Coyotes’ seventh-year coach.
It’s a remarkable achievement when you look at the Coyotes roster. Tippett still doesn’t have a legitimate second defensive pairing, his center position is deep but not overly skilled, his No. 1 goaltender is out until February following lower abdomen surgery in December and the team’s leading goal scorer is 39-year-old captain Shane Doan.
Take a look at the team’s key statistics below and ask yourself just how it is the Coyotes are sitting in a playoff position in the Pacific Division.
Goal per game: 2.65 (12th in NHL)
Goals against per game: 2.96 (26th)
Power play: 17.8 percent (17th)
Penalty kill: 76.6 percent (28th)
Faceoffs: 53.7 percent (2nd)
Save percentage: .902 (26th)
Time shorthanded: 167 (27th)
Corsi For (per war-on-ice.com): 47.2 percent (26th)
Now ask yourself another question: Why isn’t anybody talking about Tippett as a Jack Adams Award candidate for NHL coach of the year? In a recent NHL.com examination of the leaders, Tippett’s name wasn’t even mentioned among those “also in the mix.”
It’s hard to disagree that Florida’s Gerard Gallant and Washington’s Barry Trotz should be the leaders. The Panthers lead the Atlantic Division by five points when few predictions even had them making the playoffs this season.
Trotz’s Capitals have been the NHL’s most consistent team all season, having lost just 12 games combined between regulation, overtime and shootouts. Given this franchise’s history of underachieving (particularly in the postseason), Trotz’s work has been top notch.
Dallas’s Lindy Ruff certainly deserves consideration, and it’s nice to see that Los Angeles’s Darryl Sutter isn’t getting punished because his team has annual Cup expectations. The Kings did miss the playoffs last year so the turnaround from drafting early to Pacific Division leader is still dramatic.
What I don’t get is how New Jersey’s John Hynes is considered one of the leaders, with a team that has just two more points (and one more game played) than Arizona. Remember, the Coyotes finished with 56 points last season; the second-worst total in the NHL and 22 behind the Devils. New Jersey has had to navigate some key injuries (so have the Coyotes), but remember that the Devils have one of the world’s premier goaltenders in Cory Schneider.
If you want to include Hynes on the list, fine, but then you also have to include Tippett on the list. And if you’re going to include Toronto’s Mike Babcock on the list, you really have some explaining to do to avoid an assumed big-market or Toronto bias.
Babcock is obviously doing some great things to change a culture in bad need of a makeover, and yes, his roster is undermanned (again, so is the Coyotes’), but last we checked, success is measured in results. Toronto has 43 points, which is tied for dead last in the NHL. There may be a time when Babcock earns Jack Adams consideration for his work with the Leafs. This would not be that season.
I’m not advocating Tippett as one of the leaders for coach of the year — not at this point, anyway — but if his team makes the postseason after what happened last year, he should warrant serious consideration. There’s a reason Tippett will coach his 1,000th NHL game on Tuesday against Los Angeles. Ability like his is hard to find.
Here are my top Jack Adams Award candidates at the All-Star break.
1. Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers
2. Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
3. Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars
4. Dave Tippett, Arizona Coyotes
5. Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles Kings
6. Bill Peters, Carolina Hurricanes
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