Bruce Cassidy, John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault were named finalists for the Jack Adams Award on Wednesday.
The award, voted on by members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association, is given annually to the coach voted as best in the NHL. The winner will be announced during the conference finals.
Cassidy coached the Boston Bruins to the best record in the NHL (44-14-12, .714 points percentage) and the Presidents’ Trophy as the top regular-season team. Boston was eight points ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, the largest margin for any division leader, when the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The Bruins won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL (167, 2.39 per game) and tied the Philadelphia Flyers for the seventh-most goals (227, 3.24 per game). They were second to the Edmonton Oilers in power-play percentage (25.2) and third in penalty-killing percentage (84.3). Cassidy was a finalist for the award in 2017-18.
Boston will play the Lightning (.657), Washington Capitals (.652) and Flyers (.645) in the round-robin of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to determine the top four seeds into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the East.
Cassidy said the veterans on his roster helped the Bruins recover from losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues last season.
“A lot of professionalism in the room. So at the end of the day it wasn’t a real difficult task, it was just trying to sort of refocus and talk about the things we needed to do again this year,” Cassidy said. “Didn’t change a lot, we didn’t reinvent the wheel, we just tried to play Boston Bruins hockey, pick up where we left off and just be better than our last game, and it’s worked out for us so far. Hopefully we’ll have that attitude going forward.”
[RELATED: Complete list of Jack Adams Award winners]
Tortorella guided the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, .579 points percentage) to a berth in the Qualifiers. Columbus overcame injuries to numerous players throughout the season, including forwards Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand, defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo. The Blue Jackets were fourth in goals-against per game (2.61) and twice had point streaks of at least 10 games (8-0-4 from Dec. 9-Jan. 2; 9-0-1 from Jan. 11- Feb. 7). Tortorella, a two-time Jack Adams Award winner (2017-18 Blue Jackets; 2003-04 Lightning) and a finalist for the award for the fifth time, could join Pat Burns (1988-89 Montreal Canadiens; 1992-93 Toronto Maple Leafs; 1997-98 Bruins) as the only coaches to win it three times.
The Blue Jackets, the No. 9 seed, will play the Maple Leafs (36-25-9, .579), the No. 8 seed in one of eight best-of-5 Qualifier series with the winner advancing to the playoffs.
“I have a true belief and I’m sure the other guys probably feel the same way. I’d be really careful to consider this as an individual award. This is a staff/team award as far as I’m concerned,” Tortorella said. “You have to have some pretty good goaltending to come along with it. At least the way I feel about and have felt about this. It’s a good thing for the organization because I think everybody’s involved in it.
“We’re the head coaches, we have the name, I guess, for it. But, and I don’t want to speak for them and I’m sure they feel the same way, this is a group thing and it’s really good for our organization.”
Vigneault echoed Tortorella’s sentiments.
“If there’s one award out of all the awards, that one is a group-oriented, organization-oriented, from ownership on down,” Vigneault said. “The only way that we can have the success that we have is if we’ve got a great staff and great people around us. All of us, without a doubt, have that.”
Vigneault coached the Flyers to the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference (41-21-7) and a berth in the playoffs in his first season. Philadelphia tied Tampa Bay for seventh in goals-against per game (2.77) after ranking 29th in 2018-19 (3.41) and was seventh in goals-scored per game (3.29) after finishing 18th in 2018-19 (2.94). The Flyers had four winning streaks of at least four games and won nine straight from Feb. 18-March 7. A five-time finalist, Vigneault won the award with the Vancouver Canucks in 2006-07.
Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk praised Vigneault’s approach to the qualifiers after a four-month pause in the season.
“I think the biggest thing with him as far as any coach I’ve played for at any level, he lets other people do their job,” van Riemsdyk said. “For this we’re coming back and want to be in a position where we’re peaking at the right time so he’s leaning on the sports science staff as far as how long we practice, how hard we practice, when to push a little bit harder, when to pull back and give us some time to recover. I think because of all that he uses all the tools that are available to him He’s been really smart about that stuff. As players we have ton of confidence in what he wants us to do and it’ll help us be prepared and ready to play as we go thought this process and get to Toronto and start playing games.”
Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders won the award last season.
The 2020 NHL Awards were scheduled for June 18 in Las Vegas but were postponed March 25.
Deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman contributed to this report