Considering that it's outlandish, irresponsible and crazy to make any predictions about what will happen almost a year from now, I'm happy to oblige. Nuts R Us.
Joel Quenneville starts the 2010-11 NHL season as the favorite to claim the Jack Adams Award as the best coach in the league. In fact, I say he wins it.
Get me Las Vegas on the phone. I'll take 10-1.
Winning the Adams, though, is often a double-edged sword, because that guy often doesn't win the Cup. So winning the Adams can be viewed as a curse, too, when it simply confirms you're not the best coach that season when the skating stops.
Only three coaches have won the Adams and the Cup, beginning with the first year the award was issued to Philadelphia's Fred Shero in 1974.
By definition, to win the Adams you have to be "adjudged to have contributed the most to (your) team's success."
The archaic definition of adjudge is to condemn or sentence. The NHL is extremely familiar with archaic languages and rules. Many coaches have thus been condemned to win the Adams, and lose the war.
Hell of an award, ain't it, since losers usually win it. At least his bonus won't count against next year's salary cap when Q wins it, for which Brent Seabrook is eternally grateful.
I'm optimistically expecting Quenneville to return the Adams to its proper place as an honor and not a consolation prize.
Personally, I thought the quintessential Quenneville deserved consideration last season for the Adams. But sherpherding a strongwilled group to a Stanley Cup title isn't considered the right storyline when it comes for the voting members from the NHL broadcasters to define coaching excellence.
Even when that achievement happens every 60 years or so. Just not enough inherent drama in a city that seldom wins anything. Then again, why anybody would think it not that hard to live up to expectations and meet every one of them--particularly when those expectations are enormous--escapes my perception of the world.
The Blackhawks were well-coached Cinderfellas if I ever saw one, even if you want to quibble with a Q decision or two. And yet...
Q finished a weak 8th in the coaching race, even beaten handily by Mike Babcock (4th place) because of Detroit's ability to overcome injury and compete. Didn't compete as well as Chicago, but that was beside the point for voters.
Babcock even got two first-place vote, whereas Q got none.
Permit me to scratch my head. Must be the bed-bug epidemic.
Now, you tell me what perfect sense it makes that the Hawks finally put Detroit down in their rightful place in the division and Babcock is still ranked higher than Q's quality quest when it comes to leaguewide recognition. Nonsense sounds like the right answer.
Either that or lack of imagination. And having been a sportswriter and rubbed a shoulder or two with the screaming mimi's of the airwaves I know that a lack of imagination can be a serious genetic defect in both professions.
The voters prefer finding a Lazarus, aka Dave Tippett, who raised Phoenix from the dead, although you've only got to dabble in mythology to know a phoenix is born to be burnt to rice krispies and emerge from the ashes as a young phoenix. And round and round we go.
So where's the fun in that. Predestination and all that. The mythological fix was in for Tippett to win Coach of the Year last season.
Just for keeping a handle on the many diverse Blackhawks personalities, I think Quenneville deserves more credit than he gets. Now, with a reshuffled deck that features some old aces and some new jokers, Quenneville has a perfect storyline for biting into the Adams apple and polishing his reputation.
This season he is Jack Adams material largely because he has a team of champions that look as though it's been in a serious off-season car crash and not everyone survived, leaving scars and a slight limp as the roster moves forward.
This is rather neat plot material, easy for broadcasters to understand--how is Q going to stitch the pieces back together and defend the crown? Ah, I get it.
If the teams wins, or even comes close, Q wins the Adams. Simple as that. Just a cute little story and goodness knows the Hawks excel at selling cute.
Plus, I have precedence on my side. Q won the Adams in his third full season as St. Louis coach. We won't count 1996-97 when he replaced Mike Keenan midseason, because anybody who replaces Hitler is immediately considered a God-send.
In 1999-2000, the Blues made good on their building improvements the two years previous and went 51-19-11. Only to lose in the first round to San Jose. So an Adams award for Q that year was cold soup, as it has been for many.
This time he wins it a different way and in style. He mixes and matches to his heart's content, turns some question marks into answers, develops young talent into new impact players, gets another boost from the continued blossoming with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson as his anchors, ekes the last remaining drops out of goalie Marty Turco's experienced hands and returns the Hawks to another championship.
Our dreams from last summer came true. Why not again?
Scotty Bowman, who obviously had an influential hand in Quenneville replacing Denis Savard behind the bench, won two Jack Adams--1976-77 for Montreal, then again in 1995-96 for Detroit.
Bowman is one of just three NHL coaches to win the Adams and win the Cup. For Bowman, that double dip of success happened with Montreal.
So Quenneville now must go where only Bowman, Shero and a Tampa Bay Lightning strike named John Tortorella have ventured before.
Win the Cup. Win the Adams.
Only one means a damn thing. But if the Hawks are to defend the crown with an impressive display of grit, I believe it should be a twin killing for Q.
Quenneville will have his work cut out for him. And that makes him one of the prime Adams candidates right from the first drop of the puck, even if he is a coach that currently is sitting on top of the heap.
Staying there is harder than getting there. The Stache has some staying power.