Best Coach - 2004
Readers' Choice: Tony La Russa
Joel Quenneville, the head coach who couldn't lead the Blues into the Stanley Cup Finals no matter how big his payroll, is St. Louis' best coach? The guy who was sitting on a barely better-than .500 record when he got the ax, watching impotently from behind the bench as his "team" of "stars" struggled through one of the worst slumps loyal Blues fans have ever endured? That guy is the best coach of the past year? Damn straight. Ignore the Jack Adams award he won for the 1999-2000 season (presented to the league's best coach), and ignore that Quenneville left town with the highest winning percentage of any Blues coach in history (.585). Instead focus on the intangibles: While the ink on his pink slip was still wet, Quenneville went on one of the local Sunday-night sports shows and proceeded to talk up his love for the city and organization that he and his family had called home for almost seven years. He said not one bad word about how his team quit on him; he took the blame for failing to lead them out of the rut; he thanked St. Louis and the fans for the great years he spent here. And then he went to Prague and led Team Canada to the finals in the IIHF Men's World Championship. (Quenneville had to miss the gold-medal game -- which Canada won -- owing to a viral infection.) So don't blame Quenneville for the Blues' failings. Give him a team that wants to win -- say, the Colorado Avalanche, his new team -- and he's a finisher.