The news hits about the Leafs just keep on rolling in this evening, as it’s been announced that Mike Babcock is a top-three finalist for the Jack Adams award – given out to the coach “adjudged to have contributed most to his team’s success”, voted on by the NHL Broadcaster’s Association.
Mike Babcock, Todd McLellan and John Tortorella are your 2017 Jack Adams Award finalists.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) April 26, 2017
Unsurprisingly, this is the third time Babcock has been in the trio of finalists for the award, previously receiving nods in 2008 and 2014. Surprisingly, however, he’s never won the award – losing out to Patrick Roy in 2014, and before that finishing third to Boudreau and Guy Carbonneau. What’s funny is Babcock actually surpassed Jack Adams as the winningest coach in the team’s history during his time with the Wings.
The other two finalists – McLellan and Tortorella – are also names we somewhat expected to see, as we all know the award usually follows the formula of “which team surprised the most” or which coach got the best goaltending. Even with that in mind, for my money, Babcock is the favourite to take home the award next month. The Oilers made a big stride in McDavid’s first full healthy season, but the majority of that club has either been in Edmonton a while or at least played in league for years. In Columbus, Tortorella was behind the bench for perhaps the most truly eye-popping increase in the standings from last season, as the Jackets were left for dead by most pundits before this one got going. But crumbling down the stretch could hurt Torts. [For what it’s worth, my finalists would’ve included Sullivan and Quenneville alongside Babcock].
Babcock is the likely frontrunner just due to the fact the Leafs did so much, so quickly, and with so many new faces. And not in terms of roster turnover, but actually new to the league. The core trio of Matthews, Marner, and Nylander all cracked over 60 points in their first season, and promptly brought the team into the playoffs from a dead last 30th overall finish just a year ago, with help from even more rookie additions like Brown, Hyman, and Zaitsev. And while I personally don’t like the idea of a player or coach landing an award because “it’s their turn”, it really is Babcock’s turn.
For a little mainstream media insight, in Sportsnet’s early predictions poll, Babcock was the pick to take home the honour next month. The awards will be presented on June 21st.