In the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Awards in Nashville on June 26, we here at The Oil Rig have put together our own version of the program. We voted on each of the awards the Jack Adams Award, Lady Byng Trophy, Selke Trophy, Norris Trophy, Calder Trophy, Vezina Trophy, and Hart Trophy, to give out our own accolades.
The Jack Adams Award is given to the coach judged to have contributed the most to their team’s success. Often, it is awarded to the coach on the team with the biggest year-over-year improvement in points. Will that trend follow for the 2022–23 season?
Without further ado, the winner of The Oil Rig’s 2023 Jack Adams Award is…
Jim Montgomery, Boston Bruins
In his first season as head coach of the Boston Bruins, Jim Montgomery led the team to the best regular season in NHL history. Their 65–12–5 record earned the Bruins the President’s Trophy and set the all-time record for most wins and points in a single season.
It is a time in the Bruins’ competitive window where many felt the team would start regressing within their division. But as a testament to the impact that Montgomery had on his team, the systems and structure that they play with, regression is nowhere in sight. The Bruins improved by 28 points over last season.
Of special note is the success the team found on defence and in net. The Bruins gave up just 174 goals over the regular season, the least in the league and nearly 40 less than the Carolina Hurricanes, who gave up the second least.
Montgomery’s return to an NHL head coaching job was a success, until the playoffs anyways, and he is more than deserving of this award.
Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils were the owners of the biggest year-over-year improvement in the NHL this season. They nearly doubled their point output from 2021–22 to 2022–23, going from 63 points to 112. Lindy Ruff was at the helm for putting this all together.
The Devils are finally breaking out from their lengthy rebuild that saw them make the playoffs just once in 10 seasons. Ruff’s season started out poorly, as the team was booed off the ice in their home opener. But things quickly turned around. And, even through the difficult stretches and slumps of the season, the Devils were continuously at the top of the league in various advanced metrics. It shows that the way the team plays, as a result of coaching and strategies, is leading to team success.
Bruce Cassidy, Vegas Golden Knights
In 2021–22, the Vegas Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. That led to a coaching change to bring in Bruce Cassidy, who had just been let go by the Boston Bruins.
Turns out, it was a wise decision for the Golden Knights to bring Cassidy in. Despite dealing with injury and scoring troubles throughout the regular season, the team’s playstyle, staying true to the aggressive forecheck and fast pace that Vegas has used since their inception, kept the team competitive. They won the Pacific Division.
Cassidy came in highly regarded, especially by his former captain in Boston.
Turns out, Bergeron was 100% correct in his prediction.
Vote scoring: 1st Place = 5, 2nd place = 3, 3rd place = 1
The Oil Rig’s writer takes
Sean Laycock: In his first season with a new team that was supposed to be exiting its competitive window, Montgomery was able to lead his team to the best season in NHL history. That is more than enough to take home the award for best coach. Ruff and Dave Hakstol both deserve a ton of credit for how much their teams improved, as these two teams were one-two in year-over-year improvement.
Ray Boulette: Boston was historic, Jersey was surprisingly good, and shoutout to Jay Woodcroft who has one of the best coaching records since taking the helm.
Gregory Babinski: Rod Brind’Amour gets my top vote, essentially the cornerstone for one of the most consistent programs the last number of years. More often we are hearing how “Rod the Bod” sets the tone for the entire organisation, on and off the ice. On the ice, the Carolina Hurricanes play a unique and distinguishable brand of hockey. Brind’Amour navigated a three-headed goalie situation to great success.
Woodcroft is not likely to appear on many ballots, but I think it’s more than homer-ism that sees himself third on mine. Yes, having Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl helps a lot, but the superstars had already won MVPs before Woodcroft transformed the team into a legitimate contender. Woodcroft navigated the 11 forward-seven defencemen lineup with expertise. He did so because it was the best thing for his roster, not because he wanted to show off. It shows that Woodcroft has the confidence to think outside the box, the intuition to see his team’s strengths, and the trust of his players.
Michelle Nguyen: Montgomery gets my vote for Boston’s incredible season. Cassidy is a close second coaching the Knights to the top of the Pacific and their ~historical~ first Stanley Cup. It’s a little absurd he wasn’t nominated this time as he’s won it before.