Jon Cooper Is Getting Overlooked For The Jack Adams.


(Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning)


By Jake Ricker


Jon Cooper has been the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for nine full seasons and has the most wins in Lightning history. His 412 wins ranks him 9th all-time among active NHL coaches, and currently has same same among of wins as legendary coach Jack Adams.. He has yet to have a losing season in his career and has only missed the playoffs once. He has won two Stanley Cups and is making a push for a third. Despite all of these accomplishments, Cooper has yet to win the Jack Adams award, normally given to the league's top coach.

One of the biggest reasons people discount Cooper's success is because he has one of the most talented teams playing for him. While there is some truth to that, there is so much more that goes into coaching than just the talent on the ice.


On January 25, the NHL tweeted out an article on who they thought deserved the Jack Adams award for 2021-22. The top three coaches listed in this article were Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Gerard Gallant of the New York Rangers, and Rod Brind'Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes. Cooper, meanwhile, finished 9th in voting and did not receive one first-place vote among those who voted in the article.


All three of the coaches NHL.com listed as their top choices are all great coaches and have had great years, but the fact that Cooper is so low on this list is shocking. While the NHL defines the award as the best coach in the regular season, most coaches who win it have coached teams that had low expectations coming into the season and finished high up in the standings. Cooper's only finalist appearance was in 2019 when the team tied the NHL win record, and the aforementioned continued success throughout his tenure has always seemed to disqualify him from the get-go.

With the Lightning being back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions, their expectations are naturally high coming into the season. This time around, the Bolts lost a lot of key pieces last offseason. Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman, and Yanni Gourde all moved on to new homes, and were huge pieces of the Lightning's back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. So while the Lightning still had high expectations, a lot of people thought they would fall off a little bit without the services of their 'Gnat' line. This has not been the case, just the opposite.


The Lightning have also had to deal with a number of injuries this season as well. The Lightning have only played one game with a fully healthy lineup, largely due to Kucherov having missed most of the season with a lower-body injury. The defense has also been severely injured this season and even had to play one game with just four defensemen. Despite being limited on the blue line, the Bolts rose to the occasion, played a fantastic game, and won while shorthanded. A lot of credit should not only go to the players for how they adapted, but to Cooper for keeping everyone as fresh as possible and balancing out the lineup during these circumstances.



The Lightning have also dealt with Covid-19 issues, just as every other team in the NHL. The Bolts even had to play a few games with both of their main goaltenders out of the lineup. It wasn't just goalies who got hit by Covid-19 either. Numerous roster players, including Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, were sidelined with the virus at some point. Despite all of that, the Lightning are currently the 3rd in the league standings.

Cooper not only has dealt with a lot of adversity this season but has been building a championship culture in Tampa Bay for many years. Looking all the way back to his first full year as the head coach, Cooper took a similarly built team that went 18-26-4 in 2021-13 and immediately coached them to a winning record of 46-27-9 the following season. As more players from the AHL joined Cooper on the main roster, the wining culture began to settle in.


A great example of this is Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Both of them played under Jon Cooper in the AHL and quickly worked their way up the Lightning when Cooper was hired. While neither of them were high draft picks, Jon Cooper was able to help mold them into two huge pieces in the organization. Both Palat and Johnson helped bring multiple Stanley Cups to Tampa Bay, and though Johnson is no longer with the team, Palat has become one of the top scorer on the team year after year.

The biggest knock against Cooper for many years was his team; Despite making the playoffs and having record-breaking regular seasons, he was never able to get over the hump and win the Stanley Cup (which, the Jack Adams is for regular season success, so it's a silly arguement). Not only did Jon Cooper win the Stanley Cup, but he did it after being swept by the Blue Jackets in 2018-19 when everyone began to write the Lightning off as chokers.

By no means should Cooper automatic be given the award over some of these other great coaches. However, there is no question that Cooper deserves to be at the top of the Jack Adams award conversation. Let us know if you think Cooper is not getting the respect he deserves in the comments below.



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