Often times in life, things tend to run their course. Whether it’s a job, a relationship, or anything in between, a fresh start can often be the spark needed to get things back on track. The same thing can be said with an NHL franchise, and when things do run their course, a simple change can make all the difference. It’s been roughly one week since the Vancouver Canucks hired Bruce Boudreau as their new head coach, and just four games in, he’s already proving to be the perfect fit.
There has been a longing for change within the Canucks organization that had been brewing for some time now. After a 8-15-3 start, former head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning were relieved of their duties, and signed Boudreau to a two-year deal with the club, along with naming Jim Rutherford as President of Hockey Operations and interim general manager (GM). So far, the Canucks are undefeated with Boudreau, and became the first coach in team history to start 4-0 with their latest victory against the Carolina Hurricanes. Vancouver is already seeing the benefits of having a coach that brings an offensive boost, regular season pedigree, and plenty of experience and success around the league.
The Potential for an Offensive Boost
If there’s one thing well known about about Boudreau, it’s his specific coaching style, and the offensive boost it could potentially provide Vancouver. Boudreau has been a part of some of the most potent offences across the NHL. Look no further than the Washington Capitals from 2007-11. With the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, Mike Green and more, the Capitals had one of the most lethal offences for the better part of half a decade. His teams finished inside of the top-10 in goal scoring in every season outside of one (11th overall in 2010-11), and finishing first overall in 2009-10.
Having the weapons that the Canucks have, Boudreau could give some of his star players a boost and get going to help turn their season around. There’s already promise of that beginning to show with some of the players. J.T. Miller hasn’t slowed down and still leads the team with 28 points through 29 games, and Conor Garland has kept up with three points over his last four games. But it’s other players like Brock Boeser and captain Bo Horvat that have seemed to take the coaching change well. In the four games under Boudreau, Boeser has three goals and an assist. Before that, Boeser had managed just four goals in 22 games. Horvat on the other hand has put up three points over his last four games, while looking comfortable centering the top line and occupying the point on the power play. If Elias Pettersson can continue to built off of his last game, this will become a difficult team to stop offensively.
Boudreau’s Track Record During the Regular Reason
There is no shortage of experience within Boudreau’s repertoire, and his track record during the regular season is as good as it gets. Boudreau has had stints with the Capitals (2007-11), the Anaheim Ducks (2011-16) and the Minnesota Wild (2016-20), and in all three stops has great success during his tenure.
It started in Washington, where he led the Capitals to four consecutive first places finishes in the Southeast Division, winning there presidents Trophy in the 2009-10 season. He also brought his clubs to two conference semifinals appearances, in 2009 and again in 2011. After that, he found similar success in Anaheim, where like the Caps, let the Ducks to four straight first place finishes in the Pacific Division from 2012-2016, including a Conference Finals birth in 2015-16.
The Wild never finished first in their division with Boudreau at the helm, but playoff births in back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018 showed the capabilities and impact Boudreau had on his teams. It early so far, but it seems to be taking effect already in Vancouver.
A Different Voice In the Canucks Locker Room
At a certain point within a franchise, hearing the same voice over and over again can get repetitive and eventually lose a locker room. Green was brought on to be the head coach for Vancouver back in 2017 and lasted five years with the club. In his time, the Canucks made the playoffs just once (2019-20 season), in which they got in on a play-in series against the Wild, coincidentally coached by Boudreau. They eventually lost out to the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games in the second-round. After a while, all that it takes is a different voice in the locker room
In those five years, Vancouver has drafted and developed incredibly well, giving Green a plethora or young talent to work with. In his time, players like Pettersson, Hoglander, Quinn Hughes and Vasily Podkolzin were taken, while youngsters at the time like Boeser, Horvat, and Thatcher Demko were cementing themselves as a part of the core. The point is, it’s not like Green didn’t have any talent or young core players to work with, it might have been that his time there had just run its course, and a fresh voice was needed in the locker room.
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The Canucks won’t stay perfect under Boudreau forever. However a 4-0 start is very promising, and with the potential to build something successful and long lasting, Vancouver’s brass along with their fans are hoping a few more playoff appearances are coming along with it.