While the NHL will hand out its share of awards at the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Sportsnet’s NHL web team decided to hand out some awards of our own.
Winner: Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
A year after winning the Jack Adams Award, Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche have taken several steps back this season.
Even with a deep core of young talent (Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, etc), the Avalanche have fallen back to earth after a breakout season in which they won the Central Division with 112 points and pushed the Minnesota Wild to seven games in the opening round of the playoffs.
Despite that, Roy’s team was a wildly popular regression candidate heading into 2014-15.
The club relied on an unsustainable shooting percentage and were coming off a career year from goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who posted a save percentage that was going to be difficult to maintain given the team’s poor possession metrics and below-average defence.
The analytics proved to be correct. The Avalanche will finish well wide of the post-season and weren't ever really in contention.
Roy’s team owns a negative goal differential, still do not possess the puck frequently enough, and allow too many shots on goal. When you combine all three, it makes the margin of error minuscule.
So, if the regression was predictable, why is Roy being blamed?
Well, isn’t it on the coach to adjust? Shouldn’t there be a system put in place to prevent the troubling numbers? Isn’t that Roy’s job?
Sure, Colorado did suffer in the personnel department. They lost one of their best drivers of possession, Paul Stastny, to free agency and P.A. Parenteau was dealt to Montreal in the off-season for aging veteran Daniel Briere. They have also dealt with a myriad of injuries.
From Sportsnet’s Mark Spector:
Varlamov. Erik Johnson. MacKinnon. Daniel Briere. Brad Stuart. Jamie McGinn, who has only played 19 games this season. According to the website mangameslost.com, only Columbus has suffered more man games lost than Colorado’s 414.
However, that’s still not enough of an excuse for the poor performance.
“We all fall in it. The coaching staff and the players,” Roy said (via Spector). “A lot of things came pretty fast. You have a tendency to think it’s going to be easier. Then you’re not as sharp when you come to camp. Then you start behind.
“You have to deal with this. You have to learn to adapt to your team.”
The Avalanche failed to do that this season. They are far too talented to be stuck in mediocrity. They are not getting the most out of their players and have not adjusted to the playing style that wins in today’s NHL.
That has to be on the coach.
Worst Coach of the Year Runners-up
Peter Horachek, Toronto Maple Leafs
There was a strong case for Horachek. He has just seven wins in 36 games since he took over for Randy Carlyle. The team has totally collapsed -- including the offensive production of the first line -- and frankly the group has been lifeless since February. But it's hard to fully blame Horachek. He didn't have a training camp to employ his coaching system and the players are treating him like a substitute teacher. He seems better suited to be an assistant.
Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars
The Stars were expected to take a large step forward after last season's playoff appearance and, like Colorado, they noticeably regressed. Goaltending has been an issue this year so Ruff can't be at fault for that, but the Stars coach certainly didn't live up to expectations.
Dallas Eakins, Edmonton Oilers
It's tough working with a young team, but Eakins wasn't able to reach the group throughout his tenure in Edmonton. The Oilers struggled at the start of the 2014-15 season (seven wins in 31 games) so the team decided to move on. Under interim coach Todd Nelson, the Oilers have started to show improvement, which certainly hurts Eakins' stock.