The Minnesota Wild have their new coach. The team announced Saturday night that Bruce Boudreau would become the fourth head coach in team history. What was initially thought to be a more methodical and drawn out search by GM Chuck Fletcher, concluded only 13 days after the Wild were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Boudreau was initially not on the market when Fletcher began to look for his new head coach, but almost instantly after Anaheim announced his firing Boudreau rocketed to the top of the Wild’s list of possible coaches. In an interview with NHL Network’s Jamie Hersch Boudreau described it as a crazy week where he met with Fletcher the Tuesday after he was fired and was given an offer to coach the Wild for a heafty sum of $3 million a season on Friday.
The former head coach of the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, Boudreau is 409-192-80 in nine NHL seasons with eight division titles to his credit. Outstanding numbers any way you slice it. But what seems even more impressive is that Boudreau owns the distinction of reaching 400 regular season wins faster than any head coach in NHL history, and is a former Jack Adams trophy winner as the leagues’ best coach in 2008.
For the most part everyone across the State of Hockey is very pleased with Boudreau’s hiring, and it looks as if the future of the Wild just got that much brighter. The upside of Boudreau is high, but he also comes with a downside. There’s a reason he is now about to coach his third NHL franchise in 10 seasons. So before the Bruce Boudreau era starts in Minnesota here’s a few thoughts to keep in mind as expectations form for Boudreau and the team next season.
Previous Playoff Troubles
There’s absolutely no denying that Boudreau is the best regular season coach in the NHL today. Unfortunately, that success in the regular season has yet to completely transfer over into the postseason for Boudreau.
His playoff record of 41-39 has left everyone puzzled as to why his teams can’t perform in the playoffs like they do in the regular season. Furthermore, in the playoffs Boudreau’s woes in Game 7s has been epic. According to Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press, Boudreau has lost four in a row Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
These have been excellent teams in Washington and Anaheim that have underperformed for some reason in the playoffs. Many could say it was the players who just let Boudreau down, or that he just ran into outstanding competition. But in the end his two previous employers decided that Boudreau was who needed to go and not the players. After all Alex Ovechkin is still in Washington last time I checked.
Previous Player Conflicts
In both of his previous stops it was said that Boudreau’s style was tough and caused friction with his players. It was often though that one of the largest factors, aside from his playoff record, in his dismissal from the Capitals was that he clashed with and could not reach Alex Ovechkin. So contentious was their relationship Ovechkin was seen calling him a “Fat F@!ck” after being benched in a 2011 game against the Ducks.
In Anaheim his clash was with veteran Teemu Selanne apparently was so bad, that the Finnish Flash decided to rip Bourdreau in his autobiography. According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson “In his mind, Boudreau deserved most of the blame for that team’s failure to win a championship.” Selanne also was quoted as saying “If we had any other coach, I’d still play.”
So it stands to wonder in a locker room with strong veteran personalities, can Boudreau reach them? Or will he possibly alienate them like two elite talents in his two previous stops?
Fletcher’s Job Depends on Boudreau’s Success
The fact that Wild owner Craig Leipold is shelling out the most money he’s ever spent on a head coach signals that he’s going all in on Boudreau. Additionally, it’s rumored that Leipold decided to greenlight an increase in Boudreau’s offer when it was announced he was headed to Ottawa to interview.
With so much investment in a coach, it can be said that Fletcher is investing whatever stock he has left in the success of Boudreau and that pressure could effect the team. And it can also be said that Leipold will remember that. If the team does not take to Boudreau and there is a reason to fire him, you should expect that Fletcher will be fired as well. So you’ve got to think that Fletcher will be working hard to make sure the right players are there to make Boudreau successful.
For all the questions and uncertainty that Boudreau’s hiring brings into the organization, it should be said that people should be optimistic about the Wild’s future. In the end Boudreau brings more positives than negatives, but one be remiss if they didn’t look at those negatives closely. Boudreau himself gives perhaps the best case for optimism in his interview with Hersch. When asked by Hersch why he picked the Wild he explained “I think they can win. I think they can win in the next two years.” Let’s hope he knows how to make that winning a reality.
— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) May 8, 2016
Danny Lambert has been covering the Minnesota Wild for some time now, and is back again as contributor to THW staff. A native Minnesotan he’s always had his eye on the State of Hockey and is proud to write and represent such a great market and fans. Follow him on Twitter at @dannylambert17