After a season in which his Florida Panthers set a franchise record for points percentage and were two points away from winning the Central Division title, Joel Quenneville was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for top coach during the 2021 NHL season.
On Thursday night, it was announced Rod Brind’Amour — whose Carolina Hurricanes beat out the Panthers in the Central — won in a vote by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.
Brind’Amour was named on 115 of the 129 ballots and got 61 first-place votes for 433 points.
Dean Evason of the Minnesota Wild received 24 first-place votes and 235 voting points to edge Quenneville (21 first-place, 225 points).
Quenneville was vying to become the first Florida coach to win the Jack Adams; Gerard Gallant finished second to Washington’s Barry Trotz in 2016.
In his second season with the Panthers, Quenneville led Florida to a 37-14-5 (79 points) record.
Florida’s 37 wins ranked tied for third in the NHL as the Panthers went 20-5-3 at home and 17-9-2 on the road.
The Panthers got off to a great start, opening the season on an eight-game point streak (6-0-2) and seven-game road point streak (6-0-1).
Florida was the final team in the league to lose a game in regulation (Feb. 7) and the final team to lose a game in regulation on the road (Feb. 20).
Down the stretch, the Panthers went 13-2-0 in their final 15 home games and tied their season-high six-game win streak heading into the playoffs.
I think for a confidence standpoint, the players know the coach believes in them and he just lets them play,’’ said Florida general manager Bill Zito, who was named one of three finalists as the NHL’s GM of the Year on Thursday morning.
“It has been great. It has been a fascinating learning experience for me. The wisdom, the magic … his ability to put players in positions to succeed, to coach them, to push them to get the effort out of them and get the skill out of them was amazing.
“This and we didn’t have much of a training camp, no exhibition games, he had a new GM, new players, dealt with Covid. All coaches faced the same challenges, but I don’t think many faced this kind of turnover and had to evaluate them all in such a short period of time. Then he plugged them in and they all succeeded.
“It’s unbelievable what he has managed to do.”
Before the award was announced, Quenneville credited his team’s front office and the Florida players for the team’s success in an interview with NHL Network.
”To me, getting this nomination is really what the organization has done in the last year,’’ Quenneville said. “I think Bill Zito coming on board did a great job of adding staff and adding some really nice pieces to our team. There were significant contributions from Carter Verhaeghe, Hornqvist came in … our compete level across the board is what you want as a coach.
“Everything falls into place when you know the standard of expectations between everyone — your linemate, your defensive partner — are all playing the right way falls into place rather easily. That’s fun to be around.”
Quenneville has only won the Jack Adams once.
The three-time Stanley Cup winning coach of the Chicago Blackhawks won it in 2000 while coaching the St. Louis Blues.
A few days before the 2018-19 season came to an end, Quenneville — who had been fired by Chicago in the early stages of that season — had agreed in principal to take over the Panthers from Bob Boughner.
The day after Florida ended that season, Boughner was let go and Quenneville finalized his contract with the Panthers.
Quenneville was introduced the next day.
“I believe this team is close to winning,’’ Quenneville said then. “I was fortunate, luckiest guy in the world when I walked into the Chicago situation there, a team ready, sitting on go to win, I feel the same here now.”
The Panthers did not live up to their preseason hype last season although the year came to a premature end in March due to the Coronavirus.
When things picked back up in the summer, Florida was eliminated from its qualifying series by the Islanders in four games.
This year, the Panthers did not have a whole lot of high expectations outside the organization but they got off to a great start and appear to be a team which will be a contender for years to come.
To me, there are a lot of good coaches out there and I am so biased, but I can legitimately make the argument for Joel as coach of the year,” Zito said.
“The new faces alone tip the scales. It has been truly remarkable what he has done this year.”
Sasha Barkov, the captain of the Panthers, is a finalist for the Selke Award which will be announced on Friday night.