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Red-Hot Preds Making Andrew Brunette’s Case For Jack Adams Award




Since an embarrassing 9-2 home loss to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 15, Nashville Predators head coach Andrew Brunette has led the team on a 14-0-2 run in their last 16 games, and the way they’ve performed in each of those games now can only be summed up in one word: Relentless.

The phrase is etched on the hats the players have been wearing, but even more so, it has been engrained into them over the duration of the 70 games they’ve played thus far.

Success doesn’t happen overnight, and this Predators’ season is a textbook example of that. I could dive into the data to explain why this team has played better over the course of the last month or what has shifted to make those numbers work, but sometimes numbers don’t tell the true story.

Oftentimes, a team’s mentality supersedes the numbers. This is why sports psychology is such a lucrative position in professional sports, and this is why Nashville is the hottest team in the NHL.

Brunette deserves even more credit for the team’s turnaround than he’s been getting. He’s redefined what Predators hockey looks like, and there’s no question he belongs in the conversation for the Jack Adams Award, which is presented annually “to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success,” and is voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Association.

Brunette, who currently has the fourth-best odds (+1500) to win the award per DraftKings, meets the criteria, and he’s been doing it on the fly, despite a contingency of Predators fans calling for his job only a few weeks ago.

Prior to the Predators 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday, I pointed out the connection between the team’s adoption of the term relentless to define themselves and the manner by which the team has carried itself on and off the ice, and how this reminds me of trainer Tim Grover, the notable personal trainer and motivational speaker who’s worked with several sports icons like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade.

Following poor performances against the Vegas Golden Knights and Panthers at the end of January, I wrote that the Predators new regime should stop being so resistant to change.

While Nashville began its impressive 16-game point streak a few weeks after that story was published, my opinion remains the same that substantial change is needed during the offseason. What I wrote then still holds true: Brunette doesn’t have the horses to run the race he wants to run.

Which, I believe, only strengthens my argument for Brunette’s consideration for the Jack Adams Award — he’s succeeding with players who don’t fit the conventional model of a quick-rush, high-octane, offensive-first team.

Brunette has taken his share of criticism this year.

“The Predators don’t have the skill to matchup with a team like the Panthers,” or “the Predators aren’t as offensively skilled as the Colorado Avalanche.”

While I don’t disagree with either of those statements, that’s why what Brunette has accomplished since Feb. 17 is so impressive and only emphasizes my point further.

The culture that general manager Barry Trotz wanted to implement is bearing fruit, and Brunette is cultivating a no-nonsense, yet, winning attitude. The presence of “serial” winners like Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan McDonagh, and Luke Schenn is what fosters a winning culture. Nothing has changed with the Predators from a talent perspective, but their mindset has shifted.

Brunette has never wavered in his message or expectations for the team. Everyone has to pull the same rope in the same direction, the small things have to be done correctly, and the team has to be relentless on the puck.

Which is why sitting Cody Glass since the trade deadline or sending talented youngsters like Philip Tomasino and Juuso Parssinen to the AHL were highly criticized moves in the moment but have proven to actually be for the betterment of the team.

As Nashville slowly creeps up the Central Division standings and solidifies its hold on the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference, Brunette’s message has been heard sound and clear.

And he deserves the credit for making adjustments on the fly, sticking to his system that he so adamantly believes in, and taking what Trotz has given him and making it work.

Further work still needs to be done with the roster over the summer, but credit must be given where it’s is due. The true test of a coach is to take a group of top-tier athletes with individual egos and get them to work as one and to buy into an individual philosophy.

The numbers will always follow a team’s confidence and effort. Brunette is the real deal, folks. Jack Adams would approve, and the NHL Broadcasters Association should recognize that.

Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10

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