With the Penguins regular season schedule over, some focus can shift towards the end of season awards.
Pierre Lebrun at The Athletic took a pole of the general managers of the league and found Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour to be the runaway leader for the Jack Adams award for coach of the year. However, it’s worth noting that the GM’s do not vote on the Jack Adams, but rather the broadcasters around the league.
Sullivan finished fourth among the GM straw poll voting, getting one first place vote. Along with Brind’Amour, Florida’s Joel Quenneville and Minnesota’s Dean Evason were the others to finish ahead of Sullivan.
Lebrun didn’t have much to expand on Sullivan’s case or season, just saying:
Many thought the Penguins might fade this year, but Mike Sullivan has his team right back in the thick of it placing first in the tough East Division.
It’s a shame that Sullivan doesn’t have more momentum for this award, not that it’s likely to bother him. Given that the Penguins were among the leaders in man-game lost to injuries — and important ones at that — the coaching in Pittsburgh hit all the right marks.
The East is arguably the toughest and most balanced division in the league, their fourth and fifth place team has more points than any of the other divisions. And that Pittsburgh finished first in a competitive division is a testament to the job Sullivan did.
For his part though, Sullivan probably doesn’t mind what may or may not happen in a vote. His focus is on a bigger prize, and one he has more input on something he can win.
Sullivan has the Pens prepping for the playoffs this week. After an off-day on Sunday, they had an optional on-ice practice and got some off-ice work in as well. In good news they got Mike Matheson back on the ice, and Evgeni Malkin took a twirl as well after maybe tweaking something on Saturday.
The Penguins will open the playoffs with a very familiar opponent and it will be quite the coaching chess match when Pittsburgh plays Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders. Sullivan and Trotz have faced off in the playoffs in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 — the first three occasions coming when Trotz was running the ship in Washington, the last with NYI. The two coaches currently sit 2-2 against each other in playoff series meetings. At this point, Sullivan would surely rather draw ahead of Trotz than win a regular season award.