NHL coach carousel: Bruce Boudreau now top free agent
It took Bruce Boudreau less than 48 hours to land a new gig the last time he was fired.
Looks like it'll take a little longer this time around.
Not that there's a lack of demand for his services. In fact Boudreau, who was let go by the Anaheim Ducks last week after five years behind their bench, is hockey's hottest free agent. And every team with a vacancy—the Ottawa Senators and the Calgary Flames, along with the Minnesota Wild, which has an interim coach in place—likely has him at the top of its wish list.
The teams just have to hope they're at the top of his. Boudreau, who owns a 409-192-80 career record and has won eight division titles, could live off the final year of his Anaheim contract and hold out for a different type of opportunity. However, he told the OC Register's Eric Stephens he'd like to be back behind the bench next season.
For now then, all sides are doing their due diligence. There are reports that Boudreau has already met with Minnesota and is expected to interview with the Senators later this week. There's been no word yet of a meeting with Calgary, although that seems inevitable given the way Flames general manager Brad Treliving has defined his ideal candidate.
Treliving made it clear he's looking for an experienced hand whose teams have played a puck possession game and who can address Calgary's failing special teams. He may as well have held up an artist's sketch of Boudreau while his was talking. His Ducks were the NHL's fifth-best possession team last season according to War On Ice, and they finished atop the league in both power play (23.1%) and penalty kill (87.2%).
And the Flames would likely appeal to Boudreau, as well. Although there's work to be done on a roster still in the rebuild phase, they have a talented defense corps capable of triggering a possession game. Their forward pool is deep, young and promising, capable of playing with both skill and vigor.
What they don't have is a goaltender, a position Boudreau probably took for granted in Anaheim where he had the luxury of two capable starters in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson.
The Wild could give him that in Devan Dubnyk, along with a strong defensive work ethic and an organizational mindset geared toward winning sooner than later. The Sens feel they're only a couple of pieces away as well, and the chance to work with players like Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone would have some appeal.
So he has options. But is he necessarily the best fit for all of them?
While the Sens are sure to give Boudreau a long look, they might be better served hiring someone like Mike Yeo. The former Wild coach is regarded as a smart systems guy whose prioritizes play at both ends of the ice. In other words, he'll demand a full-on commitment to playing in the defensive zone, in a way that Boudreau, who is more of a communicator than an X's and O's guy, might not.
The Sens are also believed to be considering Marc Crawford and Guy Boucher, former NHL coaches who spent last season in Switzerland, along with Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen and Blues assistant (and former Ottawa captain) Brad Shaw. Yeo, though, seems like the best fit.
The Wild may have the right man in Torchetti, although the legwork being done by Minnesota GM Cliff Fletcher suggests he's a Plan B at best. Torchetti turned the team around with his plain spoken approach after his midseason hire, but their melt down ahead of the finish line inconsistent playoff performance may have scotched his chances.
Fletcher is said to be casting a wide net, considering options including Ducks assistant/2013 Jack Adams winner Paul MacLean and former Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, along with Boudreau. Bob Hartley, who was let go this week by the Flames is another option. Hartley has some skins on the wall, including a Stanley Cup won with Colorado (2001), and that Jack Adams award he claimed just last season as Coach of the Year. He has the ability to move the needle quickly and may end up being their guy.
That leaves Boudreau for Calgary, with MacLean likely to move into the top job in Anaheim.
We'll see how it plays out when the music stops.