Wherever Bruce Boudreau goes, talk of winning the Stanley Cup follows. Since the portly bench boss oversaw the Washington Capitals’ transformation from a sad franchise to a thrilling team that is of the league’s perennial threats, Boudreau has been a coveted head coach for teams looking to turn things around. He has never been out of a job long.
On Sunday night, Boudreau returned to Anaheim for the first time after spending parts of six seasons coaching the Ducks. He took the Ducks to the playoffs five times, once within one win of the Stanley Cup Final. But after his fourth straight Game 7 loss on April 28 of last year, he was fired for the second time in his career, only to be replaced Randy Carlyle, the man whose job he took over years earlier. One week later, Boudreau was scooped up by the Minnesota Wild.
In Boudreau’s return, the Wild delivered their coach some satisfaction, breaking a four-game winning streak for the Ducks with a 2-1 win.
“I love it!,” Boudreau said are the game when asked about having to answer questions about his time in Anaheim. “Are you kidding me? When you win it’s always easy to face the questions.”
The Wild have won 14 out of their last 16 games. Minnesota is 25-9-5. They allow the second fewest goals against in the NHL behind only the Washington Capitals. The Wild are just two points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for the Western Conference lead despite playing four fewer games. Boudreau will be the Central Division’s coach at the NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles later this month.
So, in short, things are going pretty well for Bruce.
In Anaheim on Sunday, Minnesota scored two goals in the span of 101 seconds, first by Matt Dumba on a five-on-three power play and then by Jason Pominville from the slot. With Devan Dubnyk solid in goal, that was all the Wild needed to earn their coach a victory, despite a late-game push from the Ducks.
NHL head coaches are often on the chopping block when things go bad. Boudreau knows that. He has little ill will towards his forward employers.
In 2011, he became the fastest coach to 200 wins in the modern era of NHL hockey, but in November he was fired by then-Capitals general manager George McPhee in a 6:15 AM meeting.
“Bruce did a terrific job here, but when the players aren’t responding you have to make a change,” McPhee told reporters after the move.
Two days later, Boudreau was off to Orange County, replacing Carlyle as the Anaheim Ducks’ head coach. He was out of work as an NHL coach for two days, the shortest span in the league’s history.
“I always love coming back here,” Boudreau said last year after the Ducks beat the Capitals at Verizon Center in a late-season game, by which time the Caps had finally recovered from the sub-par coaches that followed Boudreau in Washington. “They’re ready right now. When we won the Presidents’ Trophy, they were young, and sometimes when you’re young, you think you’ve got the world by the tail and everything is going to happen great. These guys have gone through some rough times since that time and so they know what they’re doing. They’ve grown, matured. All of them — from Nicky to Marcus to Holtby. All of these guys. They’re ready to have their turn.”
So was Boudreau, but, as in Washington, a lack of playoff success overshadowed everything. So now he has two old haunts.
“I like the weather!” Boudreau exclaimed when he met the local media before the game, noting that he had not been in the visiting locker room at the Honda Center since he coached the Capitals. “Seeing people that I haven’t seen is pretty cool. I made a lot of friends.”
As with Washington and Anaheim, Boudreau once again has a legitimate shot at making the Stanley Cup Final this year. Good for him.
“I’m grateful,” Boudreau said Sunday morning.
Headline photo: Debora Robinson
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