Benchmarks: Quatre Point Club

Using my rating system there are two ways a coach can earn a four point season: 1) having a winning season; earning a point of percentage of .600 or better; finishing first; and earning a playoff spot yet failing to reach the Stanley Cup finals; or 2) earning a winning season; making the playoffs; reaching the finals; and winning the Cup.

The five members of the Quatre Point Club for 2011 are Peter Laviolette, Bruce Boudreau, Mike Babcock, Todd McLellan, and Dan Byslma.

All five coaches earned four points via the first option although Dan Bylsma’s four point rating is a bit unique. Bylsma tied Peter Laviolette for first place in the Atlantic Division in team points but failed to win the divisional title because the Flyers had fewer losses than the Penguins. Since Byslma did tie for first therefore I decided to give him a four point rating.

Bruce Boudreau was the best of the five during the regular season. His Caps were the runner-up in the President’s Trophy race. The Caps failure to reach the Stanley Cup finals let alone win the Cup in 2011 was a crushing blow since the Caps were favored by many (including myself) to make it to the big dance. Their loss to Tampa has to be seen as the biggest upset of the 2011 playoffs.

The Flyers under Peter Laviolette had the potential to go all the way too but a late-season injury to Chris Pronger and the failure of the Flyers to resolve their goal-tending situation cost the Flyers dearly. Despite a first round playoff win, the Flyers limped to a four-game sweep against Boston. Still for Peter Laviolette, in his first full season as head coach of the Flyers, he performed admirably and got the team to play its best brand of hockey in years.

Dan Byslma won the 2011 Jack Adams award for his yeoman work in getting Pittsburgh into the playoffs despite losing stalwarts Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injuries. The loss of Sidney Crosby is even more painful since it is still uncertain whether Crosby will be able to return after suffering a serious concussion. Even though Pittsburgh fell in the first round of the playoffs to Tampa what’s amazing is that Byslma got Pittsburgh to make it that far. After Crosby was knocked out in January Pittsburgh went into a slump. Bylsma rallied his Penguins and it took a 13-4-2 surge (and a Flyers slump) to bring Pittsburgh into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division; not a bad job of coaching considering the fact that his team was torn and bleeding at the mid-point.

Todd McLellan got the San Jose Sharks to maintain their stranglehold on the Pacific Division title once more only to fall in the conference finals against Vancouver. Todd McLellan is another rising star in the NHL coaching ranks; one of the first fruits from the Mike Babcock coaching tree. McLellan, season-by-season, is making the Sharks one of the great predator franchises in the NHL today. Each season McLellan gets closer and closer to winning the whole thing.

I expect no different from McLellan for the 2011-12 season.

In 2009-10, Mike Babcock failed to win the Central Division because the Red Wings were coping with age and injuries. Still coping with the same struggles, Babcock rallied the Wings to win their fifth Central Division title in six seasons. For most of the season Babcock hovered close to the Vancouver Canucks for the President’s Trophy before giving away at the end.

The Red Wings made it to the second round of the playoffs only to beaten once more by the San Jose Sharks (the pupil beating the master).

But the fact that Mike Babcock got the Wings to reclaim the division title once more represents additional proof of my belief that he is the finest NHL coach of the 21st century.

Next week’s article will feature: Mr. Five Points

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