Since the Philadelphia Flyers fired Peter Laviolette just three games into this past season, the team has made a 360 turn-around (to say the least), and also a solid effort perhaps as well in hopes of keeping their now-interim head coach Craig Berube’s job full-time, except without an interim tag attached of course.
Berube, a former player (two spans with Philadelphia: 1986-91, 1998-2000), wouldn’t give you the slightest impression that he was an enforcer back in his playing days based on his persona and coaching strategies. Behind the bench he’s calm and collected, yet responsible, employing a defensive-based scheme as coach. He demands the most out of his players on the ice, including defensive responsibility, and while he’s stern, he isn’t the screaming and yelling type coach that his predecessor in Peter Laviolette was.
For only so long, usually, do the yelling and screaming type coaches like Laviolette last on a team; due to players eventually blocking the coach out, players feeling a sense of disrespect, and their coaching schemes no longer working on the ice. I foresee that not occurring with Berube due to his calm, yet stern nature; the players respect and listen to him, and I feel that’ll continue down the road regardless of personnel changes and slight modifications in coaching philosophies.
A little over a month ago, on May 6th, the NHL announced its three 2013-14 finalists for the Jack Adams Award Trophy; awarded annually to an NHL coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” The three finalists are as followed: Colorado’s Patrick Roy, Detroit’s Mike Babcock, and Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper.
Roy turned his former team into an instant contender, and performed a complete, amazing turnaround from last season immediately after the hire. Colorado the previous season, in 2012-13, went just 16-25-7 in the lockout-shortened season under head coach Joe Sacco. They ranked 29th in the league in points, ahead of only Florida; who had just 36 points.
After this season concluded, Colorado became the first club since the NHL expanded to 21 teams in 1979 to go from the bottom three to top three in a single season. After compiling just 39 points in 48 games two seasons ago, they finished with 112 points this season; an incredible 73-point difference from the season prior (a 45-point differential if you take into account their 67-point average, per 82 games). The Avs finished the season in first place within their division; a point ahead of Ryan Miller’s St. Louis Blues, who finished with 111.
It was Colorado’s first division title in a decade, since Roy’s final season as a player in 2003. They ranked fourth in the league in goals for with 250; an incredible difference from last year, when they ranked 26th in goals with 116. Even more impressive was their scoring depth. No player for them scored more than 70 points this season; Matt Duchene led the team in points with 70 (23 goals, 47 assists). Five players had 20-or-more-goals seasons.
Former-Anaheim, and current Red Wings’, head coach Mike Babcock led the Wings to the franchise’s 23rd-consecutive playoff berth this past season, despite compiling a franchise-record 421 man games lost due to injury. Detroit went 39-28-15 for 93 total points, a season after they switched conferences from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference. Previously, they had been in the West since the 1993-94 season.
Detroit’s major injuries this season included defensive-minded forward Pavel Datsyuk and fellow offensive star Henrik Zetterberg. Datsyuk suffered a knee injury this season which sidelined him for 37 games, while Zetterberg was sidelined for 37 games as well, due to a back injury.
38 different players this season laced up the skates for Detroit, including nine who made their NHL debuts. Neither have occurred for the team since 1990-91. This is Babcock’s second career nomination for the award; his first nomination occurred six seasons ago when he placed third.
As for Cooper, in his first full season as NHL head coach — after coaching Tampa as an interim head coach for parts of last season — took the team to the playoffs, placing second within the Atlantic Division with a 46-27-9 record (101 points). Despite finishing second — by far — to Boston for the division title, and being swept in the playoffs’ first round by rival Montreal, the team had a productive season with Cooper at the helm regardless. This was Tampa’s first playoff appearance in three years, and they improved dramatically from last season, when they went just 18-26-4.
As for Berube, despite not being named a finalist for the award, in my mind he should have been one. Considering the award’s finalists over the years are usually head coaches that took the team from a poor performance the previous season(s) to the playoffs- as Berube did, he should be named a finalist due to that fact this season.
Two seasons ago under Laviolette, the team finished at 23-22-3; six points out of a playoff spot in the East. Fast forward to the beginning of this season, Laviolette lasted just three games before he was abruptly dismissed and subsequently replaced by one of his assistant head coaches in Berube.
In those three losses under Lavy, the team was outscored 9-3. They were extremely poor in preseason play as well; albeit the games not meaning anything. They were 1-5-1, including four straight losses preceding the 0-3 whole to begin the season. It become apparent that the team’s players were tuning out Laviolette after his five-year coaching systems wore off. Plain and simple, his method of yelling and screaming at the players on and off the ice in order to properly motivate them wasn’t working anymore, and a change was needed; and thus it occurred.
Under Berube, unlike under Laviolette, the team switched to a defensive-based system as a team; one that required complete attention. The rest of the year, under Berube, the team went 42-27-10; making the playoffs as a third-seeded team in the Metropolitan Division behind Pittsburgh and the Rangers. And despite the team losing in the playoffs’ opening round vs. the rival Rangers in seven-decisive games, the first year under Berube was arguably a success; all things considered.
Philadelphia played well under him, he was a well-liked coach personally, and they impressively bounced back as well under him compared to the previous season when they missed the postseason under Laviolette. That’s a strong positive to look forward to come the start of next season under him.
All three of the award’s candidates were well deserved in my mind this season of the honor of being a finalist, but you could argue that Berube deserved to be a finalist for the award instead of/as a substitute for Cooper.