What I Like About Bruce...
Image courtesy of © Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportsThe 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.
Follow Doubles on Twitter: @_2244
Follow WildXtra on Twitter: @wildxtra
We have Facebook, too! Like WildXtra