While the Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway and generating most of the news content, the Vancouver Canucks are staying relevant in their own way. President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford addressed the media earlier in the week to discuss the team’s plans moving forward, including the pursuit to sign restricted free agent (RFA) Brock Boeser and the decision to hold off on extending head coach Bruce Boudreau. Though taking the cautious approach may end up being the right way to go, in this instance, the Canucks are wrong not to extend Boudreau beyond next season.
Having said that, Vancouver and Rutherford unanimously said that they wanted Boudreau back for the second year of the two-year contract he signed when he was first brought in. But, even with Rutherford’s past experience in this type of scenario dating back to his days in Pittsburgh, the difference this time around is that Boudreau has the option to not return if he chooses to. What makes it even more obvious to extend him is the immediate impact he had after taking over, and the positive reviews he had from his very own players.
Boudreau Has the Option Not to Return
Anytime somebody is trying to rationalize a decision, more often than not they’re drawing on past experiences. So, when Rutherford made comments earlier about not signing Boudreau immediately, he went on to bring up his history, dating back to the Pittsburgh Penguins between 2016-2018 when Mike Sullivan was the head coach. But the problem with this one is that the Canucks aren’t coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups like the Penguins were, and Boudreau has the option to not return next season.
In his media availability, Rutherford said that in their initial contract, the date for Boudreau to decide whether he wanted to come back or not was June 1. He also made it clear that the team wanted Boudreau back for the 2022-23 season. “Well, he knows we want him back. He was told that before the season was over. Like I said, he did a terrific job, but he didn’t coach a whole season here. That’s certainly not to say that at the end of next year we wouldn’t want him back.”
Boudreau’s Impact Was Immediate and Effective
Often times when there is a coaching change in professional sports, it ends up being an energy boost for the team and there is a spike in play for a period of time. Then, as the wave of emotion dies down, so does the team. However, with the Canucks, Boudreau coached nearly three-quarters of the season, a run that nearly put the team into the postseason, and the takeaway from it was the immediate impact Boudreau had on the Canucks once he took over.
After being brought on in early December following an 8-15-2 start, the Canucks proceeded to win their next seven contests, and go 9-0-1 over the first 10 games with Boudreau behind the bench. By season’s end, they owned an impressive record of 32-16-10 under the new coach, which led to a points percentage (P%) of .637%. That pace would have had them on pace for roughly 104 points across a full 82-game campaign.
Related: Canucks’ Rutherford, Allvin Discuss Boudreau, Boeser & More in Media Availability
While next season might vary, given only three teams made the postseason with less than 100 points, knowing that the current coach is capable of getting the Canucks to that threshold would make it difficult to not bring him back to try.
Players Love Playing for Boudreau
On top of the fans loving Boudreau the moment he took over coaching duties, chanting, “Bruce, there it is”, he has always been a popular coach with his players too, and there is a reason for that. He’s been rather successful wherever he has been, instilling positivity and confidence in the dressing room, which has led to him being loved by his players.
Throughout his tenure (so far), Canucks players have raved about Boudreau’s coaching style. Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat discussed how he allows them to simply play their game, while others like Tanner Pearson spoke on how Boudreau effectively communicates with his players (from “For Canucks bench boss Bruce Boudreau, positive trust a must”. The Province, 3/31/22). “He’s definitely a positive guy in the room. Doesn’t dwell on the bad stuff too much. He keeps giving us positive energy, to go out there and not hang our heads-type stuff.”
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Finding a coach that is not only successful, but also fits the mold and culture of your team, is hard to do in this league — and for the Canucks, Boudreau is just that. The one hope is that this gamble by Rutherford pays off, or else Vancouver will be searching for their third coach over the calendar year.