2018-19 was supposed to be another rebuilding year for the Vancouver Canucks. And yet, they’re hanging around in the playoff race. That’s why head coach Travis Green deserves to win the Jack Adams Award.
Even the most loyal of Vancouver Canucks fans couldn’t have expected this team to be right in the thick of the playoff race in late January, but here they are.
Rookie sensation Elias Pettersson is a key reason why Vancouver sits at 23-21-6 — tied with the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche for the two wild card spots in the Western Conference. Pettersson has missed 11 games with a concussion and knee injury, but he leads the team in scoring with 44 points. Remarkable stuff.
Pettersson isn’t the only key that Vancouver has missed over a long period. Brock Boeser missed nearly a month (13 games), with a groin injury. Despite losing their star goal-scorer and sniper, the Canucks found ways to win games and stick in the playoff race.
Sven Baertschi has only played 20 games this season, as a concussion forced him to miss two months of action. The Canucks had to get by without one of their top-six forwards, and they managed to do so.
Top blueliner Alexander Edler missed significant time with a knee injury and has been sidelined for 15 games. The Vancouver blue line hasn’t been great this year, but they did enough to survive Edler’s absence. Instead of sinking to the bottom of the standings, the others stepped up without No. 23. Again, the Canucks got by without a top player.
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And this is why head coach Travis Green deserves to win the Jack Adams Award, at least up to this point of the season. Per NHL.com, this is handed out annually “to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”
Take a look at the top teams in the NHL. Maybe Bill Peters (Calgary Flames), and Barry Trotz (New York Islanders), are as deserving as Green.
But many expected the Flames to be a playoff team anyway, and the Isles are far from a sure thing to reach the playoffs in the post-John Tavares era.
Plus, the Isles are benefiting from a weak Metropolitan Division. Making the playoffs hasn’t been so easy in the East for quite some time.
But Green is getting the most out of a very flawed Vancouver roster. This team ranks 16th in goals for (145), and 23rd in goals against (156). There have been injuries to the bulk of their top players, but Green has found ways to get his team to win the big games.
The Canucks only have three solid contributors on offence in Pettersson (23 goals, 44 points), Boeser (16 goals, 33 points), and Bo Horvat (18 goals, 40 points). But even Green is finding ways to get his non-scoring forwards to contribute. The likes of Antoine Roussel and Jake Virtanen have delivered some clutch moments here and there. Even $36 million man Loui Eriksson has had some good hockey games.
Green has been patient with his young players, even when some of them make the large quantity of mistakes. In a rebuilding year, he has this team playing some of its best hockey in years. And again, he doesn’t have the veteran All-Stars to turn to. It’s strictly his three young stars in Boeser, Horvat and Pettersson. And it’s working.
The Canucks have missed the playoffs in each of the last three years. When the Sedins retired, 2018-19 was looking to be yet another down year on the west coast. But that hasn’t been the case at all. They’re looking like the 2014-15 team that Willie Desjardins took to the playoffs in his first year as head coach. Expectations were quite low that year, too.
If the Canucks find a way to get into the postseason, Green should win the Jack Adams Award. Vancouver has been arguably the biggest surprise in the 2018-19 season, in a year where most thought they’d be competing for the best odds to win the Jack Hughes sweepstakes.
Find me another head coach who’s done so much with both a flawed roster and handful of injuries to his key players this season, when expectations were low. There isn’t one, and it’s why Green deserves to win the Jack Adams Award.