Two of the top Jack Adams Award candidates will be facing each other this afternoon when the Colorado Avalanche visit the St. Louis Blues. We handicap our favorites to win coach of the year:
1. Patrick Roy (Colorado)
The Avalanche were the Western Conference's worst team last season, and the rookie NHL coach has stepped in and transformed them into a true contender. Everyone kept waiting for this team to falter, but it never did. Instead, they'll be going for their 50th win tonight.
No one expected Roy's success, but they should have. When Roy was a star goalie, he was always fascinated by all aspects of the game. He pored over statistics, and he loved talking about coaching strategy and personnel. One of the reasons why he was a successful player was his study habits. To him, the devil was in the details.
He prepared himself more aggressively than his competitors. He was always ready for what he was about to face. He is the same way as a coach.
2. Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis)
It seems to be an NHL tradition to ignore the coaching efforts being turned in by those in charge of teams expected to win.
The Blues were expected to be among the NHL's best teams, and they are No. 1 as of Saturday morning.
Certainly, Hitchcock has plenty of talent on his roster. But his scent is all over this team, particularly with regard to St. Louis being very hard to play against.
Hitchcock has made sure this Blues team is a committed group to playing the gritty, relentless style of hockey that will be necessary to thrive in the postseason.