Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol earned a spot as one of three finalists for the 2023 Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year, the NHL announced on Friday.
Hakstol joins Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery and Lindy Ruff of the New Jersey Devils as the three men up for the honor that will be announced on June 26th at the NHL Awards in Nashville.
In the past, voters have tended to favor “rags to riches” stories, teams that pulled off some version of “worst to first”. Hakstol and Ruff both did it, and determining which ascension was most impressive is difficult. One could argue Hakstol did it with team chemistry and “buy-in” and without star power.
The Kraken improved from 60 points in their inaugural season to the 100 point plateau this past campaign.
Ruff was obviously no slouch himself. The Devils improved 50 points this past season, mostly due to some consistency in net. New Jersey went through seven goalies in 2021-’22, then picked up solid goaltending in 2022-’23 from Vitek Vanecek, MacKenzie Blackwood, and Akira Schmid, a 22-year-old who’s truly emerged in the playoffs.
No wonder the cliché exists; “show me s good coach and I’ll show you a good goalie.”
Any other year, one of these two men might be considered a strong favorite, like scoring an empty netter on a breakaway. Instead, Montgomery went ahead and complicated matters by shattering a handful of NHL records with Boston’s 65 win, 135 point season.
That would make this race very competitive, and one would think the NHL writers’ vote was close. It only factors in regular season results and efforts and the ballots are collected electronically prior to the start of the playoffs.
Hakstol will have an opportunity to share his thoughts on the finalist nomination with comments after practice at the Kraken Community Iceplex on Saturday. One wouldn’t expect any tooting-of-his-own-horn in any way, shape or form.
Hakstol will likely credit his assistants, which is fair, because ultimately, while the award goes to the bench boss, it’s a full staff effort.
“Hak” is assisted by Jay Leach, Dave Lowry, Paul McFarland, goalie coach Steve Briere and video coaches Tim Ohashi and Brady Morgan.
At the moment it’s a very busy bunch.
The Kraken play the Dallas Stars in Game-3 of the Western Conference semi-finals on Sunday night with puck drop at approximately 6:45 pm pacific.
Hakstol led his team past the defending champion Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the opening round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs in a series that ended this past Sunday.
The Jack Adams Award originated in 1974 and is named after the former NHL player and long time Detroit Red Wings general manager and coach.
Darryl Sutter of the Calgary Flames won the award last season. Ruff previously won it with the Buffalo Sabres back in 2006.