John Tortorella’s protege, Mike Sullivan, won the Jack Adams Award at the Midseason on Thursday, as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
But make no mistake: This season is Torts’ best coaching job, which is why he earned this reporter’s first-place vote.
The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the All-Star break in the Eastern Conference’s first wild card spot, winners of six in a row.
After waving goodbye to $81.5 million star Artemi Panarin, $70 million backstop Sergei Bobrovsky and rentals Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, the Blue Jackets appeared destined to be cannon fodder.
They don’t have a scorer inside the Top 60. They lost starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo and were forced to turn to rookie Elvis Merzlikins. And Cam Atkinson, Zach Werenski, Josh Anderson, Alex Texier, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand have each missed at least 10 games due to injury in the first half.
Yet, the Blue Jackets sit ahead of popular playoff picks Toronto, Carolina and Philadelphia at the unofficial midway point.
“He’s done an excellent job,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said of Tortorella on Wednesday. “You know, it’s about the team – but the coach takes a [bleep] when things are going bad, so it’s only right that he gets the praise when it’s time for that.”