Wednesday June 10th, 2015

You knew there was going to be a scapegoat after the Anaheim Ducks fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. But it was never going to be Bruce Boudreau.

Ducks general manager Bob Murray confirmed as much on Wednesday with the announcement that Boudreau would be back behind the bench in 2015-16 for his fourth season.

There will be at least one fresh face in the next team photo, though. Brad Lauer, the assistant coach in charge of the team’s offense and power play, was let go after the Ducks finished an inexplicable 28th with the extra man (15.3%) during the regular season. Considering the world-class talent he had at his disposal—Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Cam Fowler, among others—it’s tough to argue with that decision.

But one assistant coach won’t be enough of a bloodletting for those Ducks fans who were angered after the team blew a 3-2 series lead for the third consecutive season. Or worse, dropped the crucial seventh game at home for the third time.

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That frustration is easy to understand. But you don’t sack a coach after he guides his team to a franchise record 50 wins and 108 points during the regular season or leads it to 11 postseason wins, the most since the Ducks claimed the Stanley Cup back in 2007. Sure, 16 wins was the goal but the Cup, or even a berth in the final, can’t be the only standard to judge a coach’s merit.

The problem for the Ducks this spring wasn’t preparation. It was execution, all the way from a shaky Frederik Andersen in net to the Games 6 and 7 meltdowns of Getzlaf and Perry. And there’s nothing Boudreau or any other coach can do about that.

So Boudreau, who still has two years remaining on his deal, deserved another chance. But even with this vote of confidence, the clock is ticking on his tenure in Anaheim ... and maybe on Murray’s as well. By standing behind his coach, Murray is putting the spotlight on himself and his roster. And while it is close, it’s not there yet.

Murray acted boldly last summer by acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver and again at the trade deadline when he stole defenseman Simon Despres from Pittsburgh but it wasn't enough to get his club over the top. With so much young talent to leverage, and with the window to mount a Cup challenge wide open, you have to think that Murray will look to make another splash this off-season.

Ideally, he’d like to add a veteran defender and a top-six winger. If he does and Boudreau still falls short, maybe then there’ll be a pound of flesh to be had.

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