After 303 games over parts of four seasons in Minnesota, veteran coach Bruce Boudreau once again finds himself on the outside looking in.
Wild GM Bill Guerin enacted that change of position on Friday, announcing that his club would be parting ways with Boudreau, and citing a need for a “new voice” to push Minnesota back into a playoff spot before this season’s end.
In a lengthy interview with The Athletic’s Michael Russo, Boudreau opened up on his departure from the team for the first time publicly.
“It was funny because Bill came in and he shut the door, and as soon as he shut the door, I knew,” Boudreau told Russo. “You just know, right? And he says, ‘I’m going to make a change,’ and I instantly said, ‘Are you firing me?!’ — just like that. And he goes, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Are you [expletive] kidding me?’”
While he knew things weren’t going well in Minnesota — the Wild currently sit four points out of a wild-card spot with two good teams ahead of them in that race — the timing still came as a surprise.
“I may not be sharp in a lot of things, but with firings, I usually know. This one I didn’t see coming,” he said. “… I didn’t know if it would at the beginning of the year, Christmastime, the middle of the year or the end of the year. But, I thought we were playing really good and when you’re into the second week of February, I just figured I was safe ‘til the end.”
Boudreau put together a 158-110-35 record in Minnesota, leading the team to the playoffs twice over the past three campaigns. And while his Wild squad never featured the type of talent he led in Anaheim or Washington, the veteran bench boss truly believed they could contend down the line.
“My job is always to just make it work,” Boudreau told Russo. “… My thinking always all summer long last summer, if (Matt) Dumba comes in and returns to form, if Mikko (Koivu’s) healthy, if Ek, Kunin, Greener improve, if Zach (Parise) can stay in that 25- to 30-goal form, if Jason (Zucker) can get back to 30, if (Eric) Staal and (Devan Dubnyk) can bounce back after off years, if (Fiala) keeps growing, if (Ryan) Suter can get back to being the Ryan Suter after that terrible injury two years ago, we can surprise people.
“…I really believed it. I was just thinking real positive thoughts. My main worry was the schedule hampering us, not the players. I don’t want to act like I’m a friggin’ superstar coach, but I’ve never had a problem getting players to win.”
Six games shy of 1,000 behind the bench in the big leagues, Boudreau now finds himself without a bench to manage. But with a career 567-302-115 record through his NHL tenure thus far, there’s a good chance he could be back in the league before long. An opportunity he’d certainly welcome, according to his recent comments.
“If I could coach yesterday, I’d do it,” he told Russo. “I get mad, and instead of feeling sorry for myself, I want to get right back into it. In the past, I’ve gotten lucky that I got back into it right away. When I came here four years ago, I hoped this was my last job. I hoped to be here 10 years. It didn’t work out that way, but I know I can still coach.”
And age isn’t an issue, Boudreau says, despite the number of younger coaches entering the fray in recent years.
“I don’t feel old. I feel young,” he told The Athletic. “It’s not like you’re old and you don’t have energy. I’m the first one at work every day, I go in every day on off-days, I’m doing this all the time, thinking hockey all the time, so I feel very young. And anytime you go to a new job, you’re rejuvenated and you work harder.”
While the Toronto native is champing at the bit to get back in the mix with a new club, he knows it will take time, with the 2019-20 season nearly wrapped up and the next slate of coaching hires likely not coming until the off-season — leaving him in unfamiliar territory for the next few months.
“From 2004 basically ‘til now, I’ve never gone a week without working,” he told Russo. “Now, this timing, there’s no way that anything can happen ‘til maybe the end of the season. So for the first time I’m sitting down not knowing my future.”