Sharks’ Interim Bench Boss Boughner Brings Experience

Pete DeBoer joined the lengthy list of coaches relieved of their duties this season, following the San Jose Sharks dropping five straight games. Sources revealed that DeBoer’s firing was purely hockey-related – a distinction that is now important to make after Bill Peters of the Calgary Flames and Jim Montgomery of the Dallas Stars resigned or were released after unprofessional conduct.

DeBoer’s firing is not overly surprising. The Sharks were expected to be contenders at the start of the season, following a Conference Finals exit last year and four straight postseason appearances. Instead, DeBoer’s Sharks have failed to even put together a .500 record. The team sits in sixth place in the Pacific Division with a 15-17-2 record.

All You Need to Know About Bob Boughner

Along with DeBoer, assistant coaches Steve Spott, Dave Barr and Johan Hedberg were also released by the Sharks on Wednesday. The remaining assistant coach, Bob Boughner, has now been named interim head coach. Boughner brings 11 years of NHL playing experience and 10 years of head coaching experience to the role.

Boughner, born in Windsor, Ontario, was drafted 32nd overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. He spent several years bouncing around the ECHL, American Hockey League, and International Hockey League before making his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres in 1996. Primarily a physical defenseman, he played three seasons with Buffalo before being left unprotected in the 1998 NHL Expansion Draft where he was selected by the Nashville Predators.

After two seasons with Nashville, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he spent just one full season – losing in the Eastern Conference Final to the New Jersey Devils. He then signed with the Calgary Flames in the 2001 offseason. He finished his career playing limited minutes with the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche before retiring in 2006. Boughner recorded 72 points, and more notably, 1382 penalty minutes over his 630 career NHL games.

Bob Boughner
Bob Boughner as a Buffalo Sabre (THW Archives)

Boughner, freshly retired from the NHL, made his coaching debut with the Windsor Spitfires in the 2006-07 season. He had terrific success in Windsor, leading the team to back-to-back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010. He was awarded both the Matt Leyden Trophy, and Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award in 2008 and 2009, given to the coach of the year in the Ontario Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League, respectively. He coached notable players Taylor Hall and Ryan Ellis during his time in Windsor.  

After four seasons in Windsor, Boughner took a role as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2010-11 season. The Blue Jackets failed to make the postseason, and Boughner returned the following year to the OHL where he resumed his head coaching role for the Spitfires. After a combined eight seasons with Windsor, he stepped down following Sharks’ general manager Doug Wilson offering him an assistant coaching role with the Sharks for the 2015-16 season. The Sharks went on to the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Penguins in six games.

Boughner left the Sharks for a head coaching position with the Florida Panthers prior to the 2017-18 season. In a press conference announcing the signing, Panthers GM Dale Tallon stated, “During the interview process, Bob blew us away with his preparation, his passion, knowledge and dedication to the game.”

During Boughner’s two seasons with the Panthers, the team went 80-62-22. While Boughner was unable to lead the team to the playoffs in either season, the team improved by 15 points (compared to the previous season) in his first year.

Florida Panthers former head coach Bob Boughner
Florida Panthers former head coach Bob Boughner (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Boughner stated he had the opportunity to become an assistant coach with many teams after Florida, but returned to the Sharks this season after a conversation with DeBoer convinced him to rejoin the Sharks coaching staff (from ‘Bob Boughner reflects on his time coaching the Florida Panthers,’ Daily Democrat, 12/08/2019).

Should the Sharks Expect a Bounce Back Under Boughner?

Mid-season coaching changes can often spur some additional energy and success out of teams. Most notably, the Calgary Flames are 6-0-0 since former assistant coach, Geoff Ward, was promoted.

While the Sharks will certainly hope Boughner can give them a similar boost, he has his work cut out for him, as the Sharks underlying numbers have not looked good to start the season. The teams 120 goals against ranks second in the NHL, beyond only the last placed Detroit Red Wings. The Sharks currently allow a disproportionate share of shots against from high scoring areas – a problem that has caused goaltender Martin Jones to struggle significantly

Boughner’s first task if he wants to right the ship will be improving the Sharks’ defensive system, limiting high danger chances.