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The field of potential 2016 NHL coach of the year nominees is deeper than you think

One of many awards races with a lot of deserving candidates.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015-16 NHL regular season is over, which means two important things. First, the playoffs are around the corner. And second, we can finally wildly speculate about who gets nominated for awards!

So we'll be doing that all week long as the playoffs ramp up and voters send in their picks. Our nomination predictions series begins with the Jack Adams Award for the NHL's best coach. The race for the Jack Adams is more wide open than it has been in recent years. Three of the last five winners were fired within two seasons of winning the award, so congratulations to whoever gets nominated?

Anyways, here are our picks for the Jack Adams Award nominees.

Frontrunners

Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

It's hard to understate just how excellent this season has been in D.C. They won the Presidents' Trophy by a mile, didn't lose consecutive games all season and were the first team in six years to eclipse the 120-point mark. It helped that Trotz got career seasons from his best players (Braden Holtby tied the wins record and Alex Ovechkin hit 50 goals again), but the team's commitment to Trotz's hallmark defensive philosophies made the difference.

Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks

Everyone likes a redemption story and Boudreau fits that mold perfectly. The Ducks were left for dead by November, mired in last in the Western Conference amid the worst start by a team in recent memory. Anaheim could've pulled the ripcord and fired Boudreau, but it stayed patient. That restraint paid off as Boudreau led the Ducks on a rampage the rest of the year to a division title.

Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars

Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers

Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers

The third nomination could come down to these three and a good argument could be made for any of them. Ruff kept the Stars consistent throughout numerous injuries and rough stretches, and his line juggling worked more often than not. Dallas went from out of the playoffs last season to the best in the Western Conference the next (a 15-point improvement).

But everyone expected the Stars to compete. The voters may defer to the underdog stories instead. Gallant led the Panthers to the best season in franchise history, a full season or two before anyone expected them to compete so well. The Panthers could have gotten complacent after a 12-game win streak in January. Instead, they continued to flourish.

And behind Hakstol, the Flyers rallied to make the playoffs with a fantastic second half. Philadelphia didn't look like a playoff team for most of the season, but shrugged off injuries and doubts to qualify anyways. Don't underestimate that whole first-year NHL coach narrative Hakstol has going for him, either. Jack Adams voters love that stuff.

Dark Horses

Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins

Mike Johnston's hopes of landing a new coaching gig anytime soon took a hit when Sullivan took over for him in December. The Penguins were 28th in scoring, fifth in the Metropolitan Division and trending in the wrong direction when Johnston was canned. The difference with Sullivan at the helm is stark. The Penguins finished third in scoring, shots, scoring chances and goals per game. You can argue they've been the best team in the NHL since he was hired:

pittsburgh

(via Corsica)

But he only coached for half a season. Does that hurt him in the end?

Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks

DeBoer entered a locker room full of disgruntled veterans and re-focused them to one of their better seasons in years. The problem is the Sharks will be judged only when their playoff fate is determined. If he guides them deep into the playoffs, DeBoer is a worthy candidate. But voting takes place before the playoffs, so he's out of luck.

And the nominees will be...

Trotz, Boudreau and Sullivan. Washington's success has been historic in many ways and Trotz will certainly get recognized for it. Boudreau's comeback story is impossible to ignore. And Sullivan sneaks in because the difference between his reign and his predecessor's is so apparent. Without him, the Penguins might not even make the playoffs.