Amid intensifying speculation that he could be replaced any day, Vancouver Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters on Friday that he’d “be a fool to say” he doesn’t know what’s going on.
At times emotional, when asked if he would savour these upcoming games, Boudreau added, “You love it. You want to go do it. That’s how you shut it out,” before ending his availability early.
Speculation about Boudreau’s status went up a notch when he didn’t take the ice for Friday’s morning skate with the team.
However, Boudreau joked with reporters afterward about his absence from practice, saying, “Fooled you, eh?”
“I’ve got my wife phoning me saying, ‘You’re not on the ice! Is everything OK?'” Boudreau said.
Asked how he responded, the veteran bench boss was emphatic.
“I’m still here!” he said. “I just don’t go on the ice all the time.”
Then, when asked what it means to be a head coach in the NHL, Boudreau’s voice seemed to catch.
“I’ll talk later,” he said, turning away from the assembled reporters.
Reports have ramped up in recent days that the Canucks plan to bring in former Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet any day now.
Rutherford told reporters on Monday that he’s had conversations over the last few months about bringing in a new coach, but has always been clear that Vancouver is not looking — and does not want — to make a change.
“Bruce is our coach right now,” he said.
The Canucks face the defending Stanley Cup-champion Colorado Avalanche Friday at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET. This game will mark his 1,086th appearance behind an NHL bench. The teams he has coached for a full season have made the playoffs nine of 10 years. He also has a .628 winning percentage.
The Jack Adams Award winner as NHL coach of the year with Washington in 2007-08, the Toronto native and former Maple Leafs forward has coached the Capitals, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and Canucks.
Boudreau was hired as Canucks coach in December 2021 after the club fired head coach Travis Green and GM Jim Benning following a poor start last season. Jim Rutherford was installed as president of hockey operations just after Boudreau was brought on board.
Under Boudreau last season, the Canucks got better, finishing 32-15-10, but were eliminated from playoff contention with two games left in the season. Despite this relative success, the Canucks declined to give Boudreau an extension during the off-season and he returned this season in the final year of his deal.
The success hasn’t transferred into this season, either. While the Canucks have consistently found ways to score, they’ve also given up an average of 3.96 goals per game and the team’s penalty kill has been a liability, operating at a league-worst 66.9 per cent.
Vancouver sat sixth in the Pacific Division, 12 points out of a playoff spot ahead of the match-up with the Avalanche.
–with files from the Canadian Press