Sometimes, there are stories that involve sports that make you feel bad. I’m not referencing anything dire here. That’s a good thing. However, as Hasan noted in a well written hockey column on the Devils successful road trip, he also touched on a big topic that’s been discussed around the hockey world.
We all feel bad for embattled Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau. One of the real good guys who’s had both a successful playing career and now as a coach with stops in Washington, Anaheim, Minnesota and now Vancouver, the classy bench boss whose passion for the sport has always shined through is going through a truly tough time.
A year after taking over for Travis Green, Boudreau is on the outs with the Canucks. The worst aspect is they’ve made no secret that they’re going to replace him soon. It’s despicable. This is no way to treat a good man who became so popular in such a short time last year. He came very close to guiding the Canucks into the playoffs. Had captain Bo Horvat stayed healthy, they’d have made it after a poor start.
When the organization hired veteran executive Jim Rutherford to oversee the operation, they did it with an eye towards drastic changes. The Hall Of Famer recently held a press conference in which he was very honest. Admitting to the Canadian Press that they’re currently interviewing coaching candidates with TNT analyst Rick Tocchet linked to the job once he gives notice, it’s disrespectful to one of the great hockey people in the sport.
Somehow, Boudreau has handled the uncomfortable situation with a lot of class. Continuing to answer difficult questions before and after games like last night’s 4-1 home defeat to the Avalanche, he remains a true professional in every sense of the word.
It was during the game with time winding down that Vancouver fans paid homage to the affable coach with the good heart. Just as they had last season, the fans chanted, “Bruce, There It Is! Bruce, There It Is!” It was an emotional scene at Rogers Arena in British Columbia. One that Boudreau said he’ll remember forever.
“It’s unbelievable. I mean I’ve only been here a year. But it will go down in my memory books in the 48 years I played and coached. The most incredible thing I’ve experienced on a personal level other than winning championships of course. It’s very touching,” Boudreau told reporters when asked what the salute from fans meant.
Somehow, even fully aware that his days are numbered, Boudreau has maintained the same integrity that’s made him extremely popular amongst former players and those who have worked with him in the media.
Former player Andrew Cogliano had nothing but praise for the veteran coach following the game. Boudreau coached him early in his career with the Ducks. He credited him for a lot of the success he’s had in the league.
“We had a lot of success in Anaheim and I actually attribute a lot of my success in the league to him. So I owe him a lot. I love him. I think he’s a good person. He’s a good coach. And I think he’ll come out on top of all of this.”
Former colleague Jackie Redmond has really been outspoken about what’s happening in Vancouver. The outstanding NHL Now host on NHL Network who now is a key reporter for the NHL On TNT, cares about Boudreau who is a friend. She got to work with him last year in studio.
In a tweet response to a Boudreau press conference, Redmond said:
“I know I have my bias, as Bruce is my friend, but the way Boudreau has been treated by VAN isn’t right. It didn’t have to play out this way. He deserves SO much better.
And the fact he has been nothing but class this ENTIRE time tells you exactly how amazing a person he is.”
She also made sure to clarify her stance on the Canucks new Team President Rutherford looking to bring in his own coach. She emphasized how poorly the Canucks organization have handled it and treated Boudreau.
I wholeheartedly agree with Redmond. It’s an absolute travesty how Boudreau has been treated. This is a prideful man who’s had success everywhere he’s been. That included an eight-year NHL playing career mostly spent with the Maple Leafs. He totaled 28 goals and 42 assists over 141 games. He spent his pro career as an AHL star through 1992.
Once an extra in the popular hockey movie Slap Shot starring Paul Newman, Boudreau would move onto coaching. Working his way up from the former IHL and ECHL up to successful stints in the AHL where he guided the Hershey Bears to the Calder Cup in 2006, he finally got his big break when the Capitals made him the interim coach in November 2007.
Boudreau had early success helping turn around the Caps. Posting a 37-17-7 record to help the club win the Southeast Division and get them back to the postseason for the first time with Alexander Ovechkin, he was recognized with the Jack Adams Awatd for ’07-08. A great reward for a coach who paid his dues.
The Caps made the playoffs in all four seasons under Boudreau. In ’08-09, they lost in seven to the Penguins in the second round which pitted Ovechkin against Sidney Crosby. Although they continued to have success during the regular season, disappointing exits in consecutive postseasons didn’t help Boudreau. An inconsistent start to ’11-12 led to his dismissal.
He quickly was scooped up by the Ducks. After missing the playoffs, they turned it around under Boudreau. That included a run to the Western Conference Final in 2015. They came up just short in a hard fought seven-game series against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. Following another successful regular season in ’15-16, they were ousted by the Predators in the first round. The Ducks decided to make a change afterwards.
Boudreau would land on his feet in Minnesota. After moderate success helping get the Wild to the postseason the first two years, they went out in five games early. Unfortunately, the team stagnated missing the playoffs in ’18-19. During his fourth season, they were 27-23-7 in 57 games when he was dismissed. Dean Evason replaced him to conclude the COVID shortened ’19-20.
After a year away from the bench where he wound up joining NHL Network and entertaining viewers with his quirky personality and keen sense of humor, it was obvious that he still had the desire to get one more chance as a coach.
Despite that, I really enjoyed his views on the game and was reminded of why I loved him when he was featured preparing his team for the Winter Classic. Who could forget this classic moment spent with his family at the mall during the holiday season?
His enthusiasm for getting ice cream at Häagen-Dazs remains one of my favorite hockey clips away from the rink. It really showed what kind of person he was when spending time with his kids. They didn’t share his excitement for ice cream at 10 in the morning. He remarked, “Okay, fine. They don’t want me to have ice cream.”
Seeing Boudreau get his fourth NHL coaching gig with the Canucks was great. He relieved Travis Green, who probably had the same sick feeling due to all the rumors circulating that he was going to be canned.
Considering how well they played under Boudreau in going 32-15-10 to narrowly miss the playoffs, it felt like a team that had a shot entering ’22-23. However, they got off to a bad start. Even when they finally started coming around, the lack of depth on the blue line along with the uneven start by ace goalie Thatcher Demko doomed them.
If we were to review their season up til this point, the phrase Defense Optional would apply. So would Goalie Optional ever since Demko landed on the injured reserve after looking less than 100 percent. Their share of injuries hasn’t helped the cause. Neither have some of the overpaid free agents they brought in. That isn’t on the coach. It points at a bigger issue with management.
With Rutherford again being very candid about the contract offer they made to potential unrestricted captain Horvat, who’s on track for a career season with a jaw dropping 30 goals and 49 points in 45 games, it sounds like they were totally caught off guard by what he’s done. Imagine having too much invested in other players that you actually are considering moving your popular captain who at 27 is in his prime and the unquestioned leader of the team. Yikes.
Having extended J.T. Miller following a career best 99-point season, and having Elias Pettersson signed through at least next year before turning restricted, they also are tied to bad contracts such as former Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the injury prone Brock Boeser, Tyler Myers and even Conor Garland, who is signed through 2026 along with former Leaf Ilya Mikheyev, they’re in a tough spot. At least they got Demko and Quinn Hughes long-term.
Even when the clock strikes midnight on Boudreau with a new coach taking over, how can they fix the roster? Andrei Kuzmenko is going to make bank. Can they keep the promising KHL import who has had a good first NHL season?
The goalie depth stinks. They traded away Michael DiPietro to the Bruins for depth forward Jake Studnicka and defense prospect Jonathan Myrenberg. It’s been a struggle for Spencer Martin and Collin Delia. The weak defense doesn’t help. Especially when they don’t have a last line of defense which Demko supplied last year.
When Boudreau is relieved of his duties, they’ll no longer have him to kick around for all of their mistakes. A man who remains upbeat and illustrates all that’s right about the sport. He’s a professional. Something he told the media yesterday. He has too much class for Vancouver. A reputation that’ll remain impeccable which is why we love him.
Bruce, There It Is!
Hopefully this is over soon…at least Bruce got to hear what the fans thought of him. I’ve been struggling to think of a comparable to this situation and finally thought of one (though it’s the incoming guy who got all the love in this case):
Imagine if this happened today with 24/7 media and talk radio lol
If that happened now, they’d get creamed. Lol 😆