About four minutes before he was asked to out-coach highly-accomplished Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock in a decisive Game 7 (which he and the Bruins did in another comeback for the ages), Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was named as one of the three finalists for the 2018 Jack Adams Award.
Awarded annually to the league’s top coach, with the winner selected by a poll of the NHL Broadcasters Association at the end of the regular season, Cassidy cracked the league’s top three along with Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar and Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant.
And it wasn’t hard to see why.
In Cassidy’s first full year behind the Boston bench, the Bruins went a ridiculous 50-20-12, good for second place in the Eastern Conference and the fourth-best record in the National Hockey League. Cassidy also coached the Bruins to the league’s fourth-best power-play percentage, third-best penalty-kill percentage, ninth-most shots per game, and second-fewest shots against per game. The Bruins were also a dominant possession team, much like they were during the golden days of the Claude Julien era, with the league’s second-best Corsi-For percentage.
The 52-year-old Cassidy was also instrumental in the development of several Boston rookies, as first-year NHLers accounted for a league-best 58 goals (21.7 percent of Boston’s overall scoring) this season, eight more than the second-highest team total (Bednar’s Avalanche had 50 goals from first-year talents).
What made Cassidy’s work so impressive (especially with his younger talents), however, was the fact that the Bruins had 304 man-games lost due to injury. Dealing with injuries to almost everybody relied upon to be part of the spine of this B’s team, Cassidy’s squad was forced to go through the majority of their March stretch run without Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Charlie McAvoy at their disposal — and they more than survived.
“He’s been great for us,” Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller said of Cassidy. “He’s a very smart and intelligent guy. Guys love playing for him, I love playing for him. It’s a big honor for sure and we’re pulling for him.”
And in any other year and you’d think that Cassidy would have a legitimate chance at winning.
…But this award is 100 percent going to the Golden Knights’ Gallant for what has to be the greatest magic trick in Vegas history. Breaking almost every record for a first-year expansion team, the Golden Knights proved to be a legitimate juggernaut, and put together a 51-win season with an absolute island of misfit toys.
The winner (Gallant) will be announced June 20 during the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.