Should Cooper be considered for coach of the year?

by Gary Shelton on May 24, 2016 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

If Cooper lost quicker, would he be a caoch of the year candidate?/JEFFREY S. KING

Shouldn't Jon Cooper be considered for coach of the year?/JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

At a key moment in the conference finals, the NHL Coach of the Year was looking under the couch for the remote control.

When the game went into overtime, he was fishing a Cheez Doodle out of his navel. When it was time to tweak his line, he decided that a ham sandwich would be better than turkey.

Meanwhile, Jon Cooper was busy, you know, coaching.

Cooper's finished in the top two in the NHL last year. He wasn't mentioned for the Jack Adams award, a notion that probably annoyed Jack Adams, Jack Quincy Adams and Grizzly Adams. This year, he is in the top four teams in the NHL, one game away from being in the top two. You guessed it. No mention of Cooper again.

For crying out loud, are we throwing darts at a board here?

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Cooper would be better off in the voting if his team was simply dreadful last year, if they couldn't find their way to the rink, and then were better without being good this  year.

Yeah, yeah. The apologists will offer that, technically, the Jack Adams Award is a regular-season award. Well, here's a question: Why? Is there something so special about late June that you couldn't wait for the final results to be in before the voting? Isn't this 2016? Can't you vote online in, oh, four seconds or so?

Look, this is for coach of the year. And I'm willing to wager that every coach in the profession wants to still be playing by the time the Final Four comes along. But somehow, we've gotten all out of whack. We give the award to the guys who were best in October and February. We don't care so much about April and May. It's silly. If I were Barry Trotz or Gerard Gallant or Lindy Ruff, this year's candidates for the award, I'd be a little embarrassed to walk to the podium.

Yeah, they all had good years.

No, none of them had great years.

Cooper? You can certainly argue that Cooper had a great year.

He survived injury, and he survived a success hangover. He survived the contract negations by Steven Stamkos. He survived late season injuries to Stamkos and Anton Stralman and Ben Bishop. He survived a holdout by Jonathan Drouin. He broke up the Triplets. He survived expectations.

And he won. He's still winning.

Watch Cooper in action, and he always seems in control. Put it this way: if the plane is going down, he's the guy you want to land it. He would calculate the speed, and he would calculate the wind, and he would bring it in roughly but safely. Everyone knows the story of how Cooper was a lawyer; in a way, he still strikes you like that, still weighing the jury, still making his closing arguments.

Cooper has kept the Lightning alive when it was on life-support. The mystifying offensive slump didn't stop them. Getting the best shot of the opponents didn't stop them. This team won because Cooper's teams always win.

This is an old annoyance to me. Why vote on the season's MVP, for instance, before the season is over with. Why vote for the best goalie before the goals stop counting? Like it or not, the post-season is the defining memory of a season. To call the race over on major awards when the regular season is over is, frankly, kind of stupid. It's like deciding the Grammy award based on a song's first verse.

It's also a bit annoying that a coach who brings his team up from mediocrity to the edge of the playoffs seems to get more of an edge in the voting. For instance, Chicago's Joel Qeinneville hasn't won a Jack Adams award the last couple of seasons. Just two Stanley Cups. That's silly.

Yeah, yeah. It's always been that way. But when the award started 40 years ago, the votes were coming in by pony express, weren't they? Are you going to give the award to someone who won a lot of forgettable regular season games? Or a lot of the games that counted?

For what? Certainly, no one wants an award to be named before the season is over, right? So we're simply debating how long you want. If you need to wait a couple of weeks, heck, let's give it to the right guy.

In other words, there are reasons Cooper won't win it. One, his team was too good last year. Excellence has nothing to do, evidently, with being a coach of the year. Two, his team was spotty in the dog days of the season. Not enough style points. Three, his team evidently is making the other coaches feel bad.

Is this year's guy Trotz? The guy with the league's best player in Alex Ovechkin and the league's best goal in Braden Holtby? No wonder you can't spell collapse without c-a-p-s.

Is that guy Ruff? The guy who came within five goals of St. Louis in game Seven?

Is that guy Gallant? The guy who lost in the first round to the Islanders?

Hey, the award doesn't have to go to Cooper. It could go to Mike Sullivan of Pittsburgh, who is still playing. It could go to Ken Hitchcock of St. Louis (supposedly, his yap is still shut) or Peter DeBoer of San Jose.

After all, they're still playing.

Shouldn't that count for something?

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