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What I Like About Bruce...

When pro sports teams re-tool their coaching staffs, a shift in philosophy is usually at the core of the change. That was certainly the case this summer when Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher decided to hire Bruce Boudreau as the fifth head coach in franchise history. More than one-third of the way through the season, that move is looking pretty shrewd right now.
Image courtesy of © Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The narrative on previous full-time head coach Mike Yeo has been beaten to death. Deferred too much to the veterans, went too hard on the younger players, couldn’t avoid the annual Christmas-time swoon, lost the locker room. Those were all among reasons attributed for the Wild’s need to go in a different direction. Yeo always came across to me as a classy guy who always tried to say the right thing as it related to addressing his team with the media. Yeo’s comments seemed very cautious and measured at almost all times. It seemed like he went to great lengths not to publicly criticise or condemn his players or the organization. That ‘change in philosophy’ I mentioned? This is one of the most outwardly glaring differences with Boudreau. If you don’t want an open, honest answer from him, you may not want to ask him the question. And oh, what a breath of fresh air it is.

With a bit of hindsight now in play, it is interesting to revisit some of Boudreau’s quotes before the start of the season. His Q & A with the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo provided some interesting quotes and gave us a sample of his mindset and how he viewed his new team before actually getting to know them. Among hot-button items from this ‘getting to know you’ session was that Boudreau viewed free-agent signee Eric Staal as the Wild’s number one center, and that he thought there would be benefit to reducing perennial minute-muncher defenseman Ryan Suter’s average time-on-ice.

While the stats don’t tell the whole story, as they rarely do- Staal has been fantastic for the Wild. In playing all 30 games so far, Staal is tied with Charlie Coyle for the team lead in goals (10) and leads the team in assists (14) and points (24). The 32-year old Suter is playing the best hockey of his Wild career, leading the NHL at +22 (4 players are tied at 2nd with +18) and playing a great all-around game while averaging 26:59 TOI, down from 28:36 last season.

Boudreau’s candor was on full display after the Wild lost 3-2 to Calgary in a shootout on December 2nd. The Wild’s then-top line of Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, and Zach Parise did not have a good night, and Boudreau made no bones about making it known. Not only that, when Russo asked about Parise’s health, Boudreau gave another candid response:

“He looked like he had trouble skating tonight,” Boudreau said. “He just looked sluggish, like very methodical in his skating.”

Also of note was Boudreau’s choices for the shootout. Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle were unsuccessful, while Jason Pominville scored on his shootout attempt in a losing effort. Parise and Koivu, both of whom have had good shootout success throughout their careers but have been slumping lately, were not chosen to shoot for the Wild. This is a great sign that Boudreau is deferring to his players’ recent performances, and not using his personnel based on past or historical performances that may not reflect the best possible outcome in the present. In the moment the Wild may have not taken two points in Calgary, but in the big picture this type of mantra represents progress that should serve the Wild well in the big picture.

Boudreau’s candor in his dealings with media are quite the departure from Yeo’s mantra. Boudreau does not care who may be offended by his words. He’s going to be honest, and maybe in being so upfront and forthright, perhaps it is easier for his players to swallow his words as just plain honesty rather than criticism, if there even is such a distinction to be made.

The Wild will look to make it eight straight victories tonight against the Colorado Avalanche at The Xcel Energy Center. Their last loss came in the shootout in Calgary. Coincidence? Most likely. But when we look back on this season, we may view the night in Calgary as one that Bruce Boudreau officially put his stamp on his new team.

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I honestly feel that Bruce's candor is what could keep this team from falling into the swoon. He's already expressed multiple times of just winning the week. Which I believe they have been successful in doing.


So far he's called out Parise, Stewart, and Coyle. I don't think any previous coach would have called him out, granted this is the same man who benched Ovi.


It seems like players know where they stand with Bruce and I think that may be a key part in preventing a swoon. I'm not sure that Bruce has anyone in the dog house, granted that may be because they haven't had enough guys on the roster for it. To me not having some one in the dog house means a lack of resentment between players and coaches. But how long before that builds up again?


I don't think they are fully swoon proof, but I like the odds this year. Hopefully they can get through the Holidays by actually playing and not looking ahead.



    • Doubles and Monkeypaws like this

Good points from both of you. Boudreau seems to coach in the here and now. You fold vs. Vancouver? Bye bye day off. You're not playing well, down the line-up you go. I've heard many reports of sitting with players and looking at film and pointing out what they were doing wrong.


You are both right in that this is the way to avoid swoons, by dealing with problems right away, and not worryng about hurt feelings. Truth hurts sometimes, and it is much better to air things out on the spot than let them fester.

    • Doubles and bergera like this

Good points all around, as usual, Aaron.  


Given the acrimony that seemed to invade the locker room last season, a veteran coach with considerable sway was definitely needed.  Boudreau seems to be fitting the bill so far.  


To your point, Aaron-  if Boudreau is willing to bench Ovechkin, that shows he ain't afraid to pine anybody or to do what he believes is right...

    • rghrbek likes this


To your point, Aaron-  if Boudreau is willing to bench Ovechkin, that shows he ain't afraid to pine anybody or to do what he believes is right...


But I want to say that the flip side occurs as well. When Haula went down last game, they still rolled 4 lines with the weird center rotation. When a defenseman has gone down, yes, Suter has increased minutes but it has been a lot more balanced that previous years. To me that says, if you have a reason to be benched you will be, if not we are all in this together, let go. 



    • Doubles likes this
I feel like Tuesday's game vs the Avs was a spot in which we've seen the Wild lose many times before. Not this time. Pretty systematic deconstruction of a team on the brink of being a total mess. Atta boy, Bruce.
    • bergera likes this

Reading this article on Duby




The following quote stuck out


"He really started it all for me. Burkey just gives you confidence without saying anything," Dubnyk said. "You know he thinks you're good. And if you're not doing something right, he's going to tell you. He's not going to beat around the bush. You know where you stand with him and you know he's got your back."


Sounds like what guys have said about Bruce as well.