The NHL has reached the final day of its 2021 award nominations rollout, announcing the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award on Friday morning.
Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour, Minnesota's Dean Evason, and Florida's Joel Quenneville are the trio of coaches deemed to be in the running for Jack Adams honours, with each bench boss posing a compelling case after leading their respective teams to postseason berths in 2021.
Brind'Amour guided the Hurricanes to their first division crown since 2005-06 this season, watching as the team finished with a franchise-record .714 points percentage in the process before improving on their year-end result from 2019-20 by winning a playoff round in the form of a 4-2 first-round series victory versus the Nashville Predators.
If that weren't enough, the Hurricanes improved in nearly every team-specific statistical category during Brind'Amour's third season as head coach. Along with finishing third overall in the NHL standings, the Hurricanes also posted improved metrics in goals-for-per-game, goals-allowed per game, power-play percentage, and penalty kill efficiency despite experiencing a lower team shooting percentage than the season prior.
A two-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner from his playing days, this marks Brind'Amour's first award nomination as an NHL coach. And, were he to emerge victoriously, would make him the first Hurricanes bench boss to win the Jack Adams in franchise history.
A fellow first-time nominee, Evason lands among this year's finalists as somewhat of a surprise candidate. And yet, given how dramatically the Wild improved across the board during Evason's first full season in 2021, it's hard to discount his merit.
Put simply, the Wild became fun under Evason. The mediocre, overly defensively-minded team from years past blossomed into a run-and-gun offensive machine with Evason at the helm, thanks in large part to the addition of superstar rookie, Kirill Kaprizov, who was given the green light to work his magic. As a result, the Wild produced franchise-best marks in regular-season winning percentage and goals per game, while improving dramatically on the defensive side in penalty kill efficiency and goals allowed per game, as well.
Given the Wild's trajectory as a team brimming with young talent, this might not be the last time Evason finds himself in contention for the franchise's first Jack Adams since 2003.
And then there's Quenneville, who won the award back in 2000 with the St.Louis Blues and somehow never earned Coach of the Year honors while leading borderline dynasty Chicago Blackhawks of the late-200's-mid-2010's.
Prior snubs aside, this wouldn't be a lifetime achievement award for Quenneville were he to walk home with a Jack Adams this year. The 24-year veteran finally added some stability to a Panthers organization that had been spinning its wheels for the better part of a decade, with the team setting franchise records in regular-season points percentage and goals-for per game in 2021 while eclipsing their win total from the season prior in 13 fewer contests.
More impressively, however, might be how Quenneville managed to guide the Panthers to these newfound heights despite losing his top defenceman, Aaron Ekblad, to a season-ending leg injury in late March.
In getting the most out of a team that so regularly failed to meet expectations, Quenneville has a legitimate shot at becoming the first Jack Adams winner in Panthers history.