Since December, and possibly even earlier, Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant has been the frontrunner to win the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s coach of the year. After taking Vegas all the way to the Stanley Cup Final (albeit losing to the Washington Capitals in five games), Gallant became a virtual lock to win the award.
Wednesday night, it became official.
To no one’s surprise, Gallant was named the recipient of the Jack Adams Award at the 2018 NHL Awards, held in, of all places, Las Vegas’ own Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Gallant came just a few first-place votes short of unanimously winning the award.
It’s a well-deserved honor for Gallant, who led the Knights to what is likely the greatest inaugural campaign of any sports franchise in recorded history. With a team many thought would be historically bad, Gallant guided Vegas to a 51-24-7 record, a playoff berth, a Pacific Division championship, a first-round sweep of the Los Angeles Kings and an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. And he accomplished all of this while unifying a city mourning the heartbreak of one of the worst tragedies in modern United States history.
The Jack Adams Award is technically an individual honor, but Gallant made it clear that the rest of Vegas’ coaching staff is just as deserving of the award as he is.
“We’re a group of five coaches, and they do just as much as I do,” he said. “They work hard every day, they come in early in the morning. We go over everything together as a group.”
Prior to this year’s Golden Knights, the greatest inaugural campaign by an NHL expansion franchise came from the Florida Panthers (the same team that unceremoniously fired Gallant in November 2016) during the 1993-1994 season, coached by Roger Neilson. The Panthers finished that 84-game season with a 33-34-17 record — 18 fewer wins than the Knights had in their inaugural season.
The Golden Knights’ 2017-18 season was one for the ages, and Gallant was the major driving force responsible for making it all happen.
“It’s something I’ve never dreamed about. I never thought I’d be NHL Coach of the Year. It’s a great honor.”