I have been nothing short of amazed at what Ottawa Senators’ head coach Paul MacLean has been able to do, but I am not surprised. After all, way back early in the season I said that the reason the Senators would be ok was because MacLean wouldn’t let them fail.
However, if the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets continue their quest and make the playoffs this season, I think we have a new favorite for coach of the year. Todd Richards has taken a team that has finished no better than 13th in the Western Conference over the last three years and has them in the mix for the playoffs this season despite trading their franchise player in the off season.
Richards has guided the Blue Jackets on a franchise record 12 straight games with a point, and they are currently the hottest team in the West, after Anaheim’s loss to the Red Wings on Friday night. In his first year with the team he has taken them from perennial laughingstock to a team that other clubs can no longer take for granted.
Over this last stretch, they haven’t been just playing the other pushover teams. The last time they lost in regulation was a 1-0 loss to the unbeaten (at the time) Blackhawks, and then they went on to push the Hawks to extra time twice more during the points streak. They beat the Red Wings twice in back to back games.
However, much like the Ottawa Senators in the East, the Blue Jackets are getting it done but it is not always pretty. During the current streak, Columbus has gone to extra time 9 times in 12 games, winning 5 and losing 4 in extra time. They are doing just enough to stay close and then forcing extra time, to get those points, just like the Senators have done.
So forget the job that Bruce Boudreu and Joel Quenneville have done with all-star laden rosters. The best coaching jobs have been done by Todd Richards and Paul MacLean this season and they should be the top candidates for coach of the year, and toss Michel Therrien in there, very begrudgingly.