LAS VEGAS - Joe Everyman won coach of the year.
The former sporting good salesman from Edmonton, long after winning a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal and fresh off his 576th regular season win, finally won a Jack Adams Trophy.
Meaning, as he puts it, anyone can.
“I’m the guy who people think, ‘Man, if he can do it I can do it,’ ” said Ken Hitchcock, who won the award for turning a lethargic, underachieving band of St. Louis Blues into a 109-point Stanley Cup contender. “I’m the guy who came from minor hockey to the National Hockey League. I get those letters from people every month, from people who are coaching Peewee B and Bantam double-A. ‘How did you get there? How do I get there?’ From guys coaching 13 years thinking, ‘If he can do it I can do it.’ ”
Hitchcock led the Blues to a 43-15-11 record after replacing Davis Payne as head coach in early November and taking the club into the second round of the playoffs.
He’d been nominated three times before and hadn’t won, despite a championship season in Dallas, so this has been a long time coming.
“To me, the nomination means more than the award, to be honest with you,” he said. “When you’re nominated, it means that the three of us did a hell of a job.
“And the award’s a vote. I mean, who knows? Who knows how people vote? Who knows, who doesn’t? But when you’re nominated it’s a consensus of what the three of us did.”
He admits the award is subjective, though.
“The best job we ever did as a staff was the year I was on Columbus when we made the playoffs. That team overachieved every day.”
Hitchcock made a point to recognize the work Paul MacLean did in Ottawa, making a playoff team out of a group that many picked to finish dead last.
“I’m happiest for Mac, because I coached against Mac in the 90s, and I thought he was the hardest guy I ever coached against in the ‘I’ when he was in Peoria and we were in Kalamazoo. Every game was like a playoff game, and I thought, ‘Man, this guy is going to be a heck of a coach.’ Look at how long it took for him to be a head guy. I was really happy for him.”
Follow me on TWITTER.com/SUN_TYCHKOWSKI