By Craig Schroepfer, @CDSWCCO
One of the responsibilities of being an NHL general manager is choosing the head coach. Most general managers at some point get to choose their guy to lead their hockey club. If their first choice doesn’t work out, the general manager usually gets a mulligan and is given another opportunity to hire another head coach.
Rarely does a general manager get to make three coaching hires with the same organization. When that situation does present itself, it’s important that the general manager hits a home run with this coaching hire.
If that is the case, then Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher hit one out of the park on Saturday night, when the team announced that Bruce Boudreau would become the fifth head coach in franchise history.
Boudreau first became a head coach in the NHL in November of 2007, when the Washington Capitals named him as their interim coach, replacing Glen Hanlon. A month later, the interim was removed from his title and Boudreau was behind the bench in Washington from 2007 to November of 2011.
During his time with the Capitals, Boudreau had a record of 201-88-40, winning four division titles, one Jack Adams award as best NHL coach in 2008 and one President’s Trophy for having the best regular season in 2009-10.
Boudreau was let go by Washington in November 2011 after the Capitals only won four games during that month. Boudreau wouldn’t be out of work long as two days later he was hired to coach the Anaheim Ducks, replacing Randy Carlyle.
During his time in Anaheim, Boudreau went 208-104-40, winning four division titles as well. Add that up and Boudreau has a lifetime record of 409-192-80 with a winning percentage of .659, highest among all coaches in NHL history.
While Boudreau has had much success in the regular season, critics are quick to point out his shortcomings in the post-season, most notably his 1-7 record in game sevens. That’s fair as most NHL coaches are judged by what they do in the spring.
But let’s take a look at those game sevens.
In 2008, Washington lost in overtime to Philadelphia, who went on to the Eastern Conference finals. In 2009, Washington won in game seven over the New York Rangers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the next round, Washington lost to Pittsburgh, who went on to beat Detroit for the Stanley Cup.
In 2010, Washington lost to Montreal in seven games. The Canadiens, much like the Flyers two years earlier, went on to play in the Eastern Conference finals.
While in Anaheim, the Ducks lost in seven games to Detroit in 2013, Los Angeles in 2014, Chicago in 2015 and Nashville in 2016. Both Los Angeles and Chicago went on to win the Stanley Cup the years they knocked Anaheim out of the playoffs.
Boudreau’s overall post-season record is 41-40 with one conference finals appearance. There is no shame in Boudreau losing in game seven to the teams that he did. It’s more bad luck than anything else that Boudreau’s has a record of 1-7 in game seven.
The bottom line is the Minnesota Wild got the best coach on the open market to be in charge of this team. Fletcher wanted a coach whose teams play fast, has structure and holds players accountable. Boudreau checks all three categories there.
The minute Boudreau became available, Fletcher went after him and was able to land Boudreau with a four year deal worth around $3 million.
Boudreau will have the respect of all his players in the locker room and will get the most out of the young talent the Minnesota Wild who have yet to reach their full potential. Forwards like Mikael Granlund, Nino Neiderreiter, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle should flourish under Boudreau.
The Central Division consists of coaches Joel Quennville, Ken Hitchcock, Lindy Ruff and Peter Laviolette. With this hire, the Minnesota Wild adds a quality coach who should keep the franchise competitive in the toughest division in the NHL.
Welcome to the state of hockey Bruce Boudreau.