Two of the top Jack Adams Award candidates will be facing each other this afternoon when the Colorado Avalanche visit the St. Louis Blues. We handicap our favorites to win coach of the year:

1. Patrick Roy (Colorado)

The Avalanche were the Western Conference’s worst team last season, and the rookie NHL coach has stepped in and transformed them into a true contender. Everyone kept waiting for this team to falter, but it never did. Instead, they’ll be going for their 50th win tonight.

No one expected Roy’s success, but they should have. When Roy was a star goalie, he was always fascinated by all aspects of the game. He pored over statistics, and he loved talking about coaching strategy and personnel. One of the reasons why he was a successful player was his study habits. To him, the devil was in the details.

He prepared himself more aggressively than his competitors. He was always ready for what he was about to face. He is the same way as a coach.

2. Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis)

It seems to be an NHL tradition to ignore the coaching efforts being turned in by those in charge of teams expected to win.

The Blues were expected to be among the NHL’s best teams, and they are No. 1 as of Saturday morning.

Certainly, Hitchcock has plenty of talent on his roster. But his scent is all over this team, particularly with regard to St. Louis being very hard to play against.

Hitchcock has made sure this Blues team is a committed group to playing the gritty, relentless style of hockey that will be necessary to thrive in the postseason.

3. Mike Babcock (Detroit Red Wings)

He could move up to the top position if the Red Wings clinch a playoff spot.

He has worked wonders with a banged-up team that at one point was missing five centers.

The Red Wings lost their top two offensive players, Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk, after the Olympics and he has managed to rally the team into the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

4. Claude Julien (Boston Bruins)

He is the king of in-game adjustments, and he’s probably the shrewdest defensive-minded coach in the game.

During the Bruins’ recent 16-game point streak, they yielded 24 goals.

Despite losing Andrew Ference to free agency and Dennis Seidenberg to injury this season, Boston’s goals-against average is tops in the Eastern Conference this season.

Julien always makes sure his team plays responsible defense.

5. Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay Lightning)

He has been the coach the Lightning hoped they had hired when they signed Guy Boucher in 2010.

Cooper ended up replacing Boucher, and his hiring has played a major role in transforming the Lightning into one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

He is a cerebral, hard-working, modern coach who has been successful everywhere he has been. He excels in the game’s tactics, and more important, the psychology of how to persuade players to see, and play, the game differently.

Cooper has garnered instant respect around the NHL for the way he has altered the Lightning’s culture.

Other candidates

Pittsburgh Penguins’ Dan Bylsma, who had to deal with more man-games lost than Babcock; New York Rangers’ Alain Vigneault; Philadelphia Flyers’ Craig Berube; Montreal Canadiens’ Michel Therrien.