Boudreau’s Tenure With Canucks A Roller Coaster of Emotions

Bruce Boudreau‘s coaching tenure with the Vancouver Canucks lasted just 103 games but featured some of the highest highs and lowest lows this organization has seen in the past decade. Whether it was the “Bruce, There It Is” chants or the Canucks stringing him along near the end despite his replacement being known, the past 13 months are some Canucks fans won’t soon forget. Here is a look back at his time as head coach of the team.

“Bruce, There It Is”

Boudreau took over behind the Canucks bench on Dec. 5, 2021. They had just lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and a fan had thrown their jersey on the ice in a sign of protest. After his hiring, Vancouver would go on to win seven straight games, which revitalize the fan base. Fans were excited about not just the change in personnel but also the team’s play that they started the “Bruce, There It Is” chant changing the lyrics to the popular song “Whoomp! (There It Is)” by Tag Team. While it would take a miracle for the Canucks to make the playoffs, there was a belief within the organization and fan base that the “Bruce Bump” could lead them to the postseason.

Bruce Boudreau Vancouver Canucks head coach
Bruce Boudreau, Vancouver Canucks head coach (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

While the Canucks did not make the playoffs, they were close, finishing five points below the playoff bar. They had gone 32-15-10 over their final 57 games, with their .649% winning percentage ranking 11th across the league during that stretch. The most impressive of their run, though, was the temporarily-fixed penalty kill, as during the 57 games, it had an 80.5% kill rate. This was miles better than the 64.6% rate when he first arrived.

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One big reason behind the success was he put players in positions to succeed. Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes both were given shorthanded time and proved they could be effective penalty killers, Brock Boeser found his shooting confidence and scored 19 goals over his final 49 games, and J.T. Miller played so well he became a 99-point player and earned a massive contract extension. It was clear Boudreau’s message was getting through to the players, and there was a sense of optimism among the fan base going into the 2022-23 season that they would finally get to watch a playoff game live in Vancouver for the first time since 2015.

Turbulent Start to 2022-23

The problems started in the offseason when it was revealed that Boudreau may not be back to start the 2022-23 season. Both sides had an opt-out after the 2021-22 season, so there was a chance he wouldn’t return behind the bench. While it took some time, in the end, both parties agreed that returning was the right move.

Despite all the excitement for the upcoming season, the Canucks fell flat out of the gate, losing their first seven games. While the losses were frustrating, it was the fact Vancouver gave up multi-goal leads in three of the games. Frustration was building, and after an uninspired loss in the home opener against the Buffalo Sabres, once again, a jersey ended up on the ice.

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To add fuel to the fire, president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford made it known during radio and television segments that he was unhappy with the team’s poor play and lack of structure. He had also said the Canucks’ structure was poor in a press conference at the end of the 2021-22 season, but the comments made in late October and early November were more pointed, especially considering Vancouver’s 4-8-3 record after 15 games.

End Of Boudreau’s Tenure

Boudreau was let go by the organization on Jan. 22, 2023, after the club had an 18-25-3 record over their first 46 games. During that span, the Canucks had given up five goals or more on 20 occasions, had a penalty kill rate of 65.9% and found themselves ranked 27th in the league. While a change was bound to happen, it was the way it happened that has many around the hockey world calling out the Canucks.

Despite Boudreau still being the coach, on Jan. 15, 2023, Jim Rutherford publicly admitted during a press conference that his staff was discussing potential coaching options not just recently but for the past few months. This added to the reports that were already floating around that the Canucks were not just considering a coaching change but had already made the decision that Rick Tocchet would be the next head coach as soon as his contract with TNT would allow him to leave. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before a coaching change was made, yet Vancouver made the decision to keep Boudreau behind the bench despite him knowing his days were numbered.

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This kicked off an emotional week of Boudreau having to talk to the media despite knowing he would be fired soon. He also had to coach a team that was in a tailspin and had won just one of their previous eight games. Despite everything that was going on, Boudreau was classy to the end, which is a lot more than can be said about how the Canucks’ organization handled the situation.

Canucks fans knew Boudreau’s time was coming to a close and were determined to show the 67-year-old how much they cared about him. During his final two games, they serenaded him with “Bruce, There It Is” chants throughout the game, made signs saying “We Stand With Bruce,” and voiced their support for the coach and disappointment at the organization across social media. This made for heartbreaking visuals of Boudreau on the bench, which included him tapping his chest during one of the chants in a game against the Colorado Avalance, and him waiting a few moments to soak in the crowd before going down the tunnel for the final time against the Edmonton Oilers.

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Moving forward, the question turns to whether or not this was the last time the NHL will see Boudreau behind a bench. As mentioned, he is 67 years old and has been involved with the game for over 50 years. He is ranked 20th all-time in wins with 617 but is still looking for that elusive Stanley Cup. While it is not a guarantee, it is hard to believe teams will not be interested in his services in the future, considering his pedigree and how he handled this situation.

Thank You, Bruce

While most will remember Boudreau’s tenure for the way it ended, it is important to also reflect on the positives from the past 13 months. Whether it was him helping players like Pettersson, Hughes, and Bo Horvat take the next step in their development or the bubbly personality he brought to every press conference, he became one of the most loved coaches Vancouver has ever had. The way he was treated was unfair, and hopefully, the Canucks as an organization will sit down and review exactly how they treat their employees. This situation is also a great learning opportunity for others around the league in the importance of treating everyone in an organization properly. Thank you, Bruce, for all you have done for the city since arriving, and know Canucks fans will be cheering for you wherever you end up.

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