October 07, 2008
As an NHL head coach, when have you reached another level of celebrity? Winning the Jack Adams award, as Bruce Broudreau did for the Washington Capitals last season? Earning the rite of passage for D.C. sports celebrities by starring in a local auto dealership commercial, as Boudreau did for American Service Center & Mercedes-Benz of Alexandria? Or when a fan vid-caps that commercial to create a "Dramatic Coach Boudreau" YouTube meme like the infamous dramatic prairie dog.
Boudreau and his Capitals attended their media luncheon today at Verizon Center, fielding more questions about increased levels of expectations than any Washington hockey team has in about a decade.
How does life change for a 53-year-old Jack Adams winner heading into his first full season as an NHL coach?
"People phone you up that you haven't talked to you in a long time, that now want to talk to you. People want to golf with you that, a year before, didn't want to golf with you. And probably the biggest thing, outside of the Hersheys and the little towns you've lived in before, is kids' recognition that now [you're] an NHL coach," he said.
"So my life hasn't changed, outside of driving a better vehicle. As long as they sell some cars so they keep lettin' me have one."
There were plenty more questions and answers with the Capitals coach about the upcoming season, team philosophy and his late co-star Paul Newman.
Last year, every night was a playoff game. I imagine your job as a coach back then is dramatically different than your job as a coach now.
It probably is, but I approached every game the same way. When all you do is drink and eat and sleep the game, everyday to motivate, it becomes a push to be the best. My whole way of life is to push to be No. 1 at everything. It hasn't happened a lot, but every year that's my goal.
Do you prefer the chance to teach a little bit in the preseason, rather than the breakneck pace of the playoff push?
I don't know. I want to teach, but I know I still gave the team crap after the second period vs. Boston [in the preseason] because we weren't playing as great as I thought we could possibly play. All coaches push their team. When you relax, they're going to relax. I never want to look like I'm relaxed. When you get in the room, it's business. I never take this job for granted just like I never take any job for granted. Because I've been the one as a player that's been cut so often and sent down so often. I've been fired as a coach for reasons I didn't think I should have been fired for.
Does any coach think he deserves to get fired?
No, but we were first overall in the whole American League! If you start taking those things for granted, then bad things can happen.
You mentioned cuts before. Is there a significant difference in the level of stress in cutting a guy from an NHL camp than an AHL camp? I'm thinking about a guy like Quintin Laing, who gave up the body so many times for your team last season.
Knowing what their goal is, knowing that this is where they want to be, you feel for them. But it's the same thing in the American League, when the [ECHL] guys come up and that's their goal. It's part of the job. Everybody has a part of the job they don't like, and that's the part I don't like. But it happened to me 17 times.
Since there wasn't a cap down in the AHL, this is your first time dealing with the economic malarkey of the NHL.
I'm not really dealing with it. [GM] George [McPhee] deals with it, and I coach the guys we have.
But in thinking about a guy like defenseman Karl Alzner, who would be here if it weren't for the cap considerations ...
I don't know if he would or if he wouldn't. I think it's more on the, "It was good for Mike Green, and look what's happened to him." When the New Jersey Devils started their run in the 1990s, it was because they sent everyone to Albany for a year. They come up a lot better players. That's the philosophy we thought of. As easy as it would be for Karl to be here, we had six guys that played regular time in the playoffs. Karl would have been a seventh defenseman. He'll be a guy where, if something happens, he'll be a guy who can fit in.
One of the things that was so prevalent in the locker room last year was the underdog nature of the run. You guys are now favorites to win a division, to make the playoffs. Can you keep an underdog vibe when everyone is pushing you as a favorite?
We'll, we have to, because we haven't won nuthin'. We're the sexy team.
You're talking about Jose Theodore, obviously.
(Laughs) No, no I'm talkin' about those people who say we're an exciting team. If you're in Toronto, and you think you're a reporter that knows everything, who do you want to pick? Do you want to sit there and say, "Well, the Detroit Red Wings are favored to win everything?" Everybody's going to say that's an easy pick. So they're going to pick teams like us. I don't believe they think that, but they pick us for those reasons.
When I walked into the room last year, we were in 30th place, I think, and I talked about winning the Cup. Even though the players thought I was full of [poop], the expectations are the same. We talk about the same stuff this year.
But wouldn't you rather be the ugly girl at the dance?
I think that's the easiest way. But if you want to win, it isn't easy. If you think you're good, you have to be able to take this and prove why you're good.
Finally, do you have any thoughts on the passing of Paul Newman? (Ed. Note: For those who don't know, Boudreau was an extra in the classic comedy "Slap Shot.")
I just thought it was sad. I didn't know him well enough, but when I did meet him and you follow his career, there was never a scandal. He was a charitable guy, a love for racing, a love for family. Those guys, especially in Hollywood, are going to be missed.