Surprise, surprise: Bob Hartley, the Calgary Flames' head coach of the last three seasons (and extended for a few more yet), has been named a finalist for the Jack Adams trophy and the right to be named the best coach of the 2014-15 season.
His co-finalists are Peter Laviolette, in his first year with the Nashville Predators, and Alain Vigneault, who is currently in his second season with the New York Rangers.
Previously, Laviolette coached the Philadelphia Flyers for five seasons before being let go just three games into the 2013-14 season, while Vigneault coached the Vancouver Canucks for seven seasons before being fired after back-to-back first round playoff losses.
Patrick Roy, last season's Jack Adams winner, was not a finalist, presumably because the Colorado Avalanche were terrible this season, and were unable to ride percentages and an isolated career year by Semyon Varlamov to another playoff berth. Surprise.
The records of the finalists are as follows:
Vigneault brought the Rangers an additional eight wins and 17 points over this season, showing a marked improvement. Laviolette, meanwhile, is the first Preds coach since Barry Trotz, and since entrusted with the team, he got them back in the playoffs, got them another nine wins, and managed to accrue an additional 16 points.
Bob Hartley, meanwhile, took a team that improved its goaltending and ran into an insane amount of luck by jumping up to the league's second highest shooting percentage at 10.5%, and he's probably going to win this thing. Ten more wins and 20 more points will do that. Hartley coached a team expected to contend for the Connor McDavid lottery, and instead not only kept them in the playoff chase all season long, but made it with a game to spare.
It's a good story, and with the numbers swinging so wildly in his favour, one he will likely cap off with a trophy upon conclusion of the postseason.
What remains to be seen is if he'll be able to repeat that success next year. Because whatever the numbers say, and whatever faults Hartley may have - immediately naming Deryk Engelland a top four defenceman, playing Brandon Bollig an insane number of times, playing Corey Potter over Tyler Wotherspoon, inexplicably benching recalled prospects (in particular, Sven Baertschi), originally cutting Josh Jooris from camp, insisting Lance Bouma was a top six forward, insisting Joe Colborne is a top six forward, playing Jonas Hiller with the flu despite a perfectly healthy backup goalie with decent numbers in Karri Ramo available, taking way too long to put Sean Monahan in between Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler, overplaying Markus Granlund, underplaying Drew Shore, occasionally dressing Brian McGrattan and Brandon Bollig in the lineup at the same time, and even stuff that doesn't count towards the voting, like playing David Wolf in a playoff game, to name a few - depending on the Flames' offseason, they have the potential to put together another good year, and an increasingly bright future.
And sports aren't just about the numbers. Hartley has spent multiple seasons with these guys, and has worked with a very large supply of rookies in particular this season, and still managed to make the playoffs, even as his team was being wildly out-possessed most nights. So he has clearly, on some level, done something very much right.
And he has made the Flames pretty fun to watch these past few seasons.
As it stands, Hartley has by far the best story of the three nominees - Laviolette's turning the Predators around isn't as dramatic, and neither is Vigneault's President's Trophy - and people like a good story more than they like acknowledging percentages. So, congrats to Bob Hartley on being named a finalist, not to mention probably winner!