As expected, the Anaheim Ducks fired Bruce Boudreau after a fourth Game 7 loss in a row on home ice. Boudreau had been rumoured to be on the hot seat for a couple seasons – including early in this one – since the only accomplishments he had were regular season division titles and one conference final appearance.
And not only did Boudreau’s Ducks lose four consecutive Game 7s on home ice, they also lost Game 6 each times.
However, you could spin this a different way and say Boudreau’s teams haven’t ever been eliminated in fewer than seven games. Sure, teams under Boudreau have underachieved in the playoffs, but perhaps it looks that way because his impact as a coach is so great.
Luckily for us, Boudreau’s entire NHL coaching career has been in the ‘Corsi Era’ so we can look at how the Capitals and Ducks performed with and without him. Let’s start with the Capitals, and look at their cumulative score-adjusted even strength shot attempt differential (Corsi) over time.
(Since this is cumulative and not per/60, any time it goes down it means you’re being outshot. The graphic captures the entire shot attempt differential over the ‘corsi era’)
Boudreau’s impact on the Capitals’ possession game was incredible, with the team outshooting opponents by nearly seven attempts per game over his tenure. You can blame the quality of the coaches after he was fired, but it took several years for the Capitals to get back to being a positive possession team after he was let go. Even under the good coaching of Barry Trotz for two years, the Capitals haven’t yet closed the gap they created under Boudreau.
Things were a little different in Anaheim. Boudreau came into a tough situation in terms of possession, but let’s look at his impact there.
Boudreau’s Ducks weren’t the possession beasts that his Capitals were, until around the last 100 or so games that Boudreau coached. However the free fall the team experienced under Randy Carlyle was almost immediately stopped, with a slight upward arc.
The legacy of Boudreau for many fans may be playoff failure, but the fact is his presence makes teams better, not worse. The problems that cause his teams to flame out are likely not related to coaching, but his coaching may hide those problems effectively enough in the regular season that they go unnoticed.
The Capitals should be a cautionary tale to the Ducks. In order to replace Boudreau, you had better be very careful, or prepare to experience a significant drop in play.
Boudreau is known as an offensive-style coach, and that’s certainly his preferred focus, but not enough emphasis is put on his versatility. This season’s Ducks couldn’t score early, so he abandoned the run-and-gun style and had the team play hyper-conservative to cut down on goals against. The results were superb.
We can look at the Ducks’ scoring chances against per game on a month-to-month basis to clearly see this.
The light grey shading on the top and bottom represent the seven teams that allowed the most scoring chances against, and the seven teams that allowed the least. The darker grey area in the middle represents the rest of the league.
After being at the top of the average area in October in scoring chances against, the Ducks completely shut it down, and allowed the fewest chances against at even strength in the entire league for four of the next six months. This is remarkably consistent.
That ability to completely change his style and not only be successful, but be the most successful in the NHL, is why Boudreau should be the most coveted name on the NHL market this summer, including player free agents.
Steven Stamkos might be able to add some goals to your team, but he’ll also take a huge chunk out of your salary cap. Boudreau can turn an average team into a contender — and he can do it in any style you want.