Friday, June 13, 2008

NHL Awards: Habs Shutout

As nominations were being prepared, Habs fans were thinking that the Canadiens could realistically take a shot at 3 of the trophies – the Calder, the Jack Adams and the Hart. The optimists were hoping for nominees in even more categories with Markov a borderline Norris candidate based on his regular season play.

Nominations for the trophies (or published top threes in voting), left us with one man standing: Guy Carbonneau for the Jack Adams trophy.

Last night was the final cull for the Habs, as Carbonneau lost out to Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals.

The voters got it wrong with this verdict.

Boudreau's accomplishments pale in comparison to Carbonneau and Babcock (the other nominee) and even to a few others who were not nominated in the end.

While Boudreau's supporters vaunt his impressive 37-17-7 record in the last 61 games of the season, they just as eagerly ignore that Carbonneau's Canadiens went 35-19-7 over the same span. Babcock's Wings did better at 39-16-6.

Boudreau turned a team around. Carbonneau and Babcock kept their teams consistent enough to win.

Boudreau took a non-playoff team to the last available place. Carbonneau took a non-playoff team to first. Babcock managed to get the perennial leaders interested in another runaway regular season win.

So why was Boudreau chosen?

The answer eludes me.

Lots of teams improve from one season to the next – going from non-playoff team to qualifier. If that was the criteria for coach of the year, surely John Stevens would outclass Boudreau. Carbonneau's Canadiens went from 11th to first, comfortably cruising into post-season play with time to spare. He must trump Boudreau here too!

Perhaps the answer was Boudreau's ability to turn a flailing Capitals franchise around. If so, he won a Jack Adams trophy on the back of poor work from both Glen Hanlon who should and could have done better preparation with the Capitals and from Peter Laviolette who coached his talented team out of the playoffs again.

I have Carbonneau as the coach of the year, regardless of what the mopes on the voting panel say. Carbonneau not only turned his team around, won the East and somehow managed to get Kovalev into the mood to be a serious mentor, but he also did it in a seriously difficult division, with no help over the season from his GM.

It shouldn't be forgotten that Carbonneau and his team also revamped the number one which had lost its main weapon of the previous campaign – actually improving it. Over the season they also turned the Canadiens young crew into extremely effective penalty-killers and defenders and even the number one offensive team in the league.

After putting all this down on paper, it's pretty clear Carbo deserved more than the invitation to dress up and do his best good loser impression for the cameras.

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