The case for Kris Knoblauch being among Jack Adams Award finalists

The NHL announced the finalists for the 2024 Jack Adams Award and inexplicably, the nominees did not include Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch.
Edmonton Oilers v Montreal Canadiens
Edmonton Oilers v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Friday saw the NHL announce the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award, which is presented annually to the head coach who is adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success. For some reason, Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch was not among the nominees.

Instead, the NHL named the Winnipeg Jets' Rick Bowness, Andrew Brunette of the Nashville Predators, and the Vancouver Canucks' Rick Tocchet. While not disputing the individual merits of all three nominees, to believe they are all more worthy of inclusion over Knoblauch is quite simply wrong.

At the time of Jay Woodcroft's firing, this writer will admit to thinking the Oilers were being too hasty with the decision. After all, Woodcroft had done wonders during his tenure as coach in Edmonton, and he arguably deserved more time to right the ship.

At the same time, objectively speaking, it was clear something was not right. The Oilers had endured their worst ever start to a season through 12 games and at one point had the worst team save percentage in the NHL, while allowing the second-most goals.

In came Knoblauch, who had a previous history with Connor McDavid and the rest, as they say, was history. In fact almost literally at one point, as the Oilers subsequently came within one victory of the Pittsburgh Peguins' all time NHL record of 17 consecutive wins.

The Knoblauch effect

The change in the Oilers under the calm and cerebral leadership of Knoblauch, was clear for all to see on the ice. Most importantly of all, he galvanised the team's defensive game, which was highlighted by Stuart Skinner seeing his save percentage jump from .861 before Woodcroft was fired, to .912 after he left the organisation.

In terms of goals allowed, the Oilers improved from second-worst to 10th-fewest by the conclusion of the regular season. They also finished with the fifth-fewest average shots against per game.

Of course most important of all, was Knoblauch's regular season record of 46-18-5. This translated to a .703 winning percentage, which was the best in the NHL after he took over on Nov. 12.

People may want to point towards the Oilers finishing the regular season ranked fourth-best in goals scored and power play success rate, which while still excellent, paled in comparison to finishing first in both categories last season. However, this was more than balanced out/explained by the extra focus and planning on defence in 2023-24; for context, consider that last season they were only ranked 17th-best in goals allowed and tied 18th-worst in average shots against per contest.

One final aspect to consider, is how Knoblauch's coaching influence spilled over into the playoffs -- at least for the opening round. Of the three consecutive seasons of facing the Los Angeles Kings in round one, this year was the most comprehensive series victory for the Oilers.

Next. Oilers to face Canucks in Round 2. Oilers to face Canucks in Round 2. dark

Overall, again, we appreciate the individual accomplishments of Bowness, Brunette and Tocchet, who are all viable nominees in their own right. However, there is no way that all three deserve to be finalists for the Jack Adams Award ahead of Knoblauch; it will now be up to him and the Oilers to prove this during the remainder of the playoffs, which includes an upcoming matchup versus Tocchet and the Canucks.

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