When your coaching pedigree comes in part from being an assistant to Mike Babcock, there’s a pretty good chance something positive is going to stem from that as a head coach. Bill Peters has been doing things right since eight players who played for the Rockford Ice Hogs during Peters' tenure went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in either 2010 or 2013. So far, Peters has made significant impacts with the Carolina Hurricanes in his two-plus seasons as head coach, and has been an influence at the international level as well.
A coach is only as good as his goaltender, and Cam Ward has been pulling his weight this season. But he’s also as good as the coaching staff he helps assemble, and Steve Smith’s penalty kill is second to none in the NHL. Not only that, but the other assistant coach, Rod Brind’Amour, has helped the forwards go from 27th in the league in goals for per game to 14th.
There are a lot of positives with this team and Peters is a large part of the reason behind it. He’s obviously good with the young guys because he’s gotten them to buy into his system. He also won gold at the 2016 World Cup last year coaching team Canada as an assistant to, naturally, Babcock. Everyone can see the upward trend of this current Hurricanes team. They just need to find a way to be a little more successful on the road.
But, given the trajectory, could it be an award-winning performance by Peters?
The fact that the Hurricanes are one point out of a playoff spot and have defeated teams like Columbus, Chicago, St. Louis and have had close games against the Penguins results in Peters getting praised. The Canes are one of the hottest teams in the league right now and are making a legitimate run for the playoffs. If they do make it, Peters could be a top candidate for the coach of the year, but only if they finish inside the top three in the Metro Division.
The other hot candidates are John Tortorella, Bruce Boudreau, Barry Trotz and Babcock. Prepare for Karate Kid references if Babcock and Peters are in the conversation for the Jack Adams. Mike Sullivan and Joel Quenneville could be a part of the discussion as well.
The probability for Peters to win is pretty slim, but the fact he could says something in itself. Tortorella and Boudreau are the likely front-runners considering both coach’s team has had incredible winning streaks only for the Minnesota Wild’s streak to be snapped by the Columbus Blue Jackets extending their streak. In his second season behind the bench for the Maple Leafs, Babcock has been able to get the most out of his young corps — with a little help from Auston Matthews — and currently sit third in the Atlantic. Barry Trotz’s Capitals are another team so far this season with a hefty nine-game winning streak and shut out 4 teams in the process including Columbus, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Ottawa.
So, who could win the silverware this season?
John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets
Current case: Oversaw a 16-game winning streak and, with apologies to Braden Holtby, has perhaps the top goaltender in the Metro meat grinder in Sergei Bobrovsky. No one saw the Jackets performing this well before the season, which usually is a solid indicator of who will win the award. Tortorella won once before, in 2004 when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup.
Current odds: 40%
If Canes make the playoffs: 35%
Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild
Current case: Like Tortorella, Boudreau is overseeing a club that is outperforming expectations, helped in large part by a renaissance season from one Eric Staal. The Wild, though, were expected to be good, albeit not this good, which probably puts Boudreau behind Tortorella in the pecking order, but not by much. Boudreau would also be a second-time winner, his first coming in 2008.
Current odds: 30%
If Canes make the playoffs: 25%
Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
Current case: It would be rare for Trotz to win it two years in a row - in the history of the Jack Adams, it’s only been won back-to-back once, by Jacques Lemaire with the Red Wings in 1987 and 1988. However, the Caps are playing better this season than last, so Trotz probably deserves consideration. The Caps may well win the President’s Trophy, which strangely may work against him; only two coaches have won the Jack Adams on the top regular-season team since the 2005 lockout.
Current odds: 20%
If Canes make the playoffs: 20%
Bill Peters, Carolina Hurricanes
Current case: It would almost certainly take a playoff berth for Peters to win the award. Since the first Jack Adams was awarded in 1973, no coach has ever won on a non-playoff team. So Peters’ odds of winning are directly correlated to making the postseason — but if the Canes make it, look out. Peters still wouldn't stand a great chance considering Tortorella’s and Boudreau’s streaks, but being in a playoff position would really help his chances.
Current odds: 0%
If Canes make the playoffs: 15%
It’s shocking that Mike Babcock has never won this award. He is likely atop the “best of the rest” list, and if the Maple Leafs make the postseason he could find himself in the same position as his protege Peters. Usually the coach who will win the award becomes apparent by April, so the chances will decrease that an out-of-left-field candidate could surface as the season goes on, but Babcock and maybe Quenneville could find themselves in the mix by the end of the year.
Current odds: 10%
If Canes make the playoffs: 5%