At 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning, coach Bruce Boudreau discovered his time with the Washington Capitals had come to an end after 201 victories since Nov. 2007. He had emptied his bag of tricks to motivate the team. His general manager said his tank was on empty.
Yet Boudreau said he was ready to coach in the NHL again the moment the Capitals replaced him with Dale Hunter.
"Absolutely. It's what I do," he told the Washington Times. "I love hockey and I love my job," he said. "Even when things are going bad, I love my job. I love going to work in the morning, and I feel comfortable when I'm behind my desk or behind the bench or talking to guys or being on the ice. It's something that I would relish doing."
At 1:21 a.m. on Thursday morning, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Boudreau had been hired to replace Randy Carlyle, even after Anaheim defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1. It's a shocking move from the Ducks, even with their dismal record (7-13-4) — but an absolutely genius hire.
Alert the local Haagen-Dazs distributors. Tell the Anaheim Mercedes dealers the new spokesman's here. Cover the kids' ears if the camera happens to cut to the locker room between periods. (Or if they happen to pull up next to the coach's car in rush hour traffic.)
Bruce Boudreau is waddling with the Ducks.
The Ducks fired Carlyle, assistant coaches Dave Farrish and Mike Foligno, and Video Coordinator Joe Trotta. Brad Lauer joins Boudreau as an assistant coach. Another one will be added soon, and one wonders if it won't be one of Boudreau's old lieutenants in Washington.
"This was an extremely difficult decision," said Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. "Randy is a terrific head coach, and did a tremendous job for us for six-plus seasons. We thank him greatly for his hard work and dedication to our franchise, not the least of which was a Stanley Cup championship. At this time, we simply felt a new voice was needed. Bruce is a proven winner with a great track record, and we are optimistic we can turn this season around under his leadership."
As head coach of the Washington Capitals (2007-11), Boudreau won the 2007-08 Jack Adams award (NHL Coach of the Year) and led his club to the 2009-10 Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top club in the regular season. He compiled a record of 201-88-40 (.672 winning percentage) with the Capitals and won the Southeast Division four times. He became the fastest coach in modern day NHL history to win 200 games (Nov. 21, 2011 vs. Phoenix) and recorded more wins (184) in his first 300 NHL games than any NHL coach all-time.
Again, this might seem like a no-brainer: Carlyle's team was terrible, Boudreau is one of the most successful coaches since the lockout. But Carlyle signed a new contract that runs through 2014, and there was chatter that the Ducks wouldn't fire him because they couldn't afford — or didn't want to pay — two head coaches at the same time.
Furthermore, he's the most successful coach in franchise history, winning the Ducks' only Stanley Cup in 2007. There were calls for his head from the media to the blogosphere to the fans in the stands. Increasingly, it looked like GM Bob Murray would stand with his coach and make a trade to shake up the team, potentially dealing star winger Bobby Ryan.
He still yet may trade him; but, obviously, not with the idea that it would save Carlyle's job. It's absolutely stunning he pulled the trigger, given that recent context.
What's interesting about Carlyle and Boudreau is that the circumstances for their firings run parallel, if SK from Anaheim Calling has the diagnosis right:
Consider this, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan have all played under Carlyle for their entire NHL career. They know how he works. They've heard his threats. They know his game. They know how to play their role. If anything, these guys might be the ones to most benefit from a coaching change (aside from the poor younglings who know no better and are already terrified). They need someone with new rules to obey, new threats to consider. These guys are like teenagers who know how to say the right things to get what they need or want. They need new parents with new rules and new regulations. Someone to slap the rebellious teen from their attitudes.
Boudreau had the same issues of petulance and irresponsibly with the Capitals. He's not a disciplinarian; when he tried to be one near the end of his tenure with Washington, it rang hollow and hastened his dismissal.
No, Boudreau is a players' coach and that's the change Anaheim needs right now. Someone who can work with them, and not crack the whip. Someone who can take a talented top six at forward, some puck-moving defensemen (when the unit's healthy) and flip the switch offensively. The Ducks are 29th in the NHL in scoring, with a 2.21 goals-per-game average. That's inexcusable for a team of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne.
Boudreau has previously coached Andrew Gordon in the Capitals organization and coached George Parros while with the Manchester Monarchs.
Keep this in mind as well: The Ducks have a number of young players that are really, really going to benefit from Boudreau. He cut his teeth in the AHL, and has always been an advocate for, and strong teacher of, young talent. Given Anaheim's depth problems this season, that's a huge key.
(And Cam Fowler, in the hands of the coach who made Mike Green one of the best offensive defensemen in hockey? OK then.)
Boudreau's willingness to jump back into the fray less than 70 hours after being fired indicates no rust, no burnout. It indicates a competitive fire burning, and a desire to turn a struggling team around after his old students stopped listening. (It also indicates he believes he can make an impact in Anaheim immediately, because he'd have other offers soon.)
Anaheim is 10 points out on Dec. 1. Its coach has been replaced.
In the priceless words of Bruce Boudreau: It's time for the Ducks to get their asses out of their heads.
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