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Caps Coach Candidates: Bruce Boudreau

Taking a look at potential options to fill the Caps’ coaching vacancy; next up, an old friend.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

With the Caps and Todd Reirden having parted ways, the search is on for the next bench boss - so we’re taking a look at some of the possible candidates, what they bring to the table, and where they might come up short. Next up? A coach in waiting - Bruce Boudreau.

Early Career

Bruce Boudreau, unsurprisingly as a Canadien, grew up playing hockey. He had a successful junior career before being taken 42nd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1975. He wasn’t longed for the NHL but made a great career in the AHL as one of their best players ever. He still holds the third most points and is first in points per game among players that played at least 500 games.

Boudreau started coaching shortly after retiring in 1992. He worked his way up the ranks until he landed in Washington’s system where he had a very successful career coaching the Hershey Bears in the AHL. He led them to two Cup finals there, winning one of them.

Coaching Background

You won’t need too much background for Boudreau. He broke into the NHL with the Capitals in 2007, and, combined with the Young Guns, made one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the whole NHL. He won the Jack Adams that following offseason after getting the Capitals back into the playoffs after a five year layoff while winning the division.

Over his first four years the Capitals were a dominant team, even winning the President’s trophy. But eventually the regular season success wasn’t enough and a couple months into his fifth year in 2011-2012. Boudreau was fired.

He then made history as the fastest NHL coach hired after being fired, waiting a mere two days before Anaheim hired him. And like he did in Washington, Bruce made Anaheim into a very good team, posting three straight 100+ point seasons in his first three full seasons with the Ducks. But like Washington, they couldn’t find playoff success and he was let go from Anaheim after the 2015-2016 season.

A little after a week he was let go, the Minnesota Wild hired him. There he had two strong seasons of 100+ points. The third season was a disappointment and they missed the playoffs. Then after 57 games into the 2019-2020 season he was let go from the Wild.

That brings us to now, where he sits and waits for his next coaching opportunity, hopefully it’s with the Capitals again.

Before and After

So let’s look at his career in context: how did each team do before Boudreau’s arrival and after?

We all know what the Capitals were like before Bruce showed up. They missed the playoffs three times (four if you include the lock out 2004-2005 season) and were consistently in the bottom of the league. He brought them to the forefront with the Young Guns and made hockey relevant, along with Ovechkin, in the DC area.

After he left it went down hill for the Capitals. Dale Hunter took over for Boudreau to finish out the 2011-2012 season. Capitals did decently with Hunter’s defense first mentality, even knocking out the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in the Bruins. After that there were the dark times of Adam Oates who lasted two seasons with the Capitals and it was a disaster. But it all ended up paying off as the Capitals won the Stanley Cup with Barry Trotz just handful years later.

Before showing up to Anaheim they were doing alright but not great. After winning the Cup in the 2006-2007 season they made the playoffs three times and missed once. Boudreau was able to get them into the playoffs every year he was there (besides the one he came in on) and even got them to the Western Conference Finals.

After Boudreau left the Ducks actually got back to the Western Conference Finals but then lost the first round after that and the last two seasons didn’t even make the playoffs.

It’s in Minnesota that Boudreau really developed his game. He was always known as that coach in Washington that played that run and gun style, but with the Wild he showed he can play defense just as well. Over the last three seasons he was with the Wild (NaturalStatTrick won’t you select up to four seasons for some reason), under Boudreau, led his team to give up the least amount of Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes with 1.96 in the entire NHL. The Capitals during that time frame were 27th with 2.44.

That shows a lot about his coaching. He doesn’t just rely on one way, he plays to his team’s strengths. For the Capitals, who desperately need defensive structure, but have all the offensive potency in the world, Boudreau could be the perfect fit to combine both.

Caps Connection

This is an easy one. He coached the team for four plus years.

Intangibles

As seen in the imagery below provided by HockeyViz, Boudreau has been a very good coach for a long time at both ends of the ice. The offense took a little bit of a hit in the Minnesota era but their offensemen were average at best. With the Capitals talent at both side of the puck, Boudreau should be able to make a formidable fast physical team that can prevent scoring chanced against and product more chances for.

Pros:

  • 14 years coaching experience
  • Relationship with the team and some of the players
  • Well rounded coach that plays to his players strengths
  • A fun character that fans and media love

Cons:

  • Could familiarity with the team be a negative? Would players get too comfortable?
  • Are Ovechkin and Boudreau okay?
  • He’s had poor playoff results

The Bottom Line:

The Capitals are looking for experience? Boudreau has 14 seasons of it, that’s tops of most coaches available. By all accounts he’s well loved by the players and garners their respect. His experience has made him into a very good, well rounded coach that can play a lot of different styles. He has playoff failures but so did Trotz before he came to us. Plus, how fun would it be to have Boudreau come full circle to be here at the towards Ovechkin and Backstrom’s career and win a Cup?