He's the best

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:34 PM ET


 Darryl Sutter has at least one hand on the NHL's coach of the year award.

 OK, so it's not quite the Stanley Cup but, like hockey's Holy Grail, winning the Jack Adams Trophy is still a grand measure of team success.

 It means the guy running the show got the most out of his charges, which is exactly what Sutter has done with the Calgary Flames.

 After all, the Flames wouldn't be anywhere close to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs without his presence and influence.

 Heck, the club probably wouldn't be competing in this spring's post-season without the leadership he's brought here.

 That's why Sutter deserves to win the Jack Adams Trophy this year.

 It'd be nothing short of scandalous if he isn't among the nominees when the finalists for the NHL regular-season awards are announced today.

 Some will lobby hard in San Jose for Ron Wilson to win the Jack Adams Trophy.

 And for good reason, as his Sharks climbed 31 points in the standings -- a league-best -- to finish second in the Western Conference with 104 points.

 Then there's Dave Lewis, who led the Detroit Red Wings to the President's Trophy with 109 points. Success like that always makes you a coach-of-the-year candidate.

 There could also be ballots by the bunches for John Tortorella in Tampa, where the Lightning won the East with 106 points over the more experienced likes of the Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

 And just behind the Bolts finished the Boston Bruins, whose boss Mike Sullivan deserves plenty of consideration after a 104-point campaign.

 But in backing Sutter, there is much more than the final standings.

 It's not simply the Flames' sixth-place finish in the Western Conference that should garner him attention.

 It's their improvement from a 12th-place standing in just one regular season.

 It's their improvement of 13 wins in one regular season.

 It's their rise to their best record (42-30-7-3) and best point total (94) in a decade, all of which earned the Flames their first playoff appearance in eight years.

 And now, of course, they are making the most of that appearance with a berth in the second round of these Stanley Cup playoffs.

 But it's too bad the playoffs are ignored when it comes to voting for the NHL's best coach.

 Otherwise, Sutter would be a shoo-in for the award.

 He still should be.

 In the regular season, Sutter needed to deal with injuries to all three of his goaltenders -- Roman Turek, Miikka Kiprusoff and Jamie McLennan -- and to integral forwards Steven Reinprecht, Dean McAmmond, Craig Conroy and Stephane Yelle.

 Yet he never allowed the players to use injuries as a crutch or an excuse for losing.

 He has led the charge, proving time and again how to get the most out of his players in any situation.

 Perhaps the best example came Monday night during Game 7 in Vancouver, when captain Jarome Iginla and overtime hero Martin Gelinas almost singlehandedly willed the team to victory, mere days after they were publicly challenged by Sutter to play better.

 The bench boss found the right buttons to push.

 It's what he's done from the first day of the season.

 It's what he's done from the first day he arrived in Calgary.

 The playoffs have simply highlighted Sutter's value.

 Coach-of-the-year value.


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