(Update: The Ducks officially fired Boudreau on Friday.)
There's an elephant in the Ducks' room. Bruce Boudreau is about to become a scapegoat. Perhaps replaced by a walrus.
We don't know yet for sure, but an endorsement from Anaheim Ducks ownership and/or GM Bob Murray for their coach would be awfully surprising. Boudreau, after all, just fell to 1-7 in Game 7s for his career. He couldn't get his team motivated to start the first period Wednesday night against Nashville. That problem has plagued him throughout his career in Game 7s. He also couldn't get his Ducks to adjust and start working the puck down low when the Predators completely clogged the front of their net, protecting goalie Pekka Rinne as Secret Service agents would the president.
Boudreau is good coach. He's an offensive wizard, regularly fielding teams who score at will. He's a turnaround artist who can take over a new team and convert it from an also-ran into a regular season juggernaut and playoff contender quickly. But, fair or not, it's a cold, hard fact he continuously fails to win The Big One. He'll likely have to fall on the sword. This stacked Ducks team really doesn't need much, save perhaps for one more good goal scorer, so what else can it do besides try a different coach? Franchise pillars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry turn 31 next month. They're still young enough to be impact NHLers and fuel a championship team, but their window is closing rapidly. Their best years are likely behind them now, so the Ducks must act swiftly to boot their odds of a 2017 Cup run. That probably means trying a new bench boss.
Who are the best candidates to replace Boudreau if he's fired? And what are Boudreau's options in his next search for gainful employment?
POTENTIAL BOUDREAU REPLACEMENTS IN ANAHEIM
It's entirely possible MacLean, who won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year with the Ottawa Senators in 2013, was brought in as a Ducks assistant coach to be a fallback in the event of another Boudreau disappointment. MacLean is a logical pick to get the first look. He's credited with jump-starting the Ducks' power play, which led the NHL at 23.1 percent this season. He left a bad taste in Ottawa when he reportedly went mad with power after his Jack Adams win but was known as more of a players' coach before then and seems to have re-established that calm presence in Anaheim. He'd let a strong personality like Getzlaf keep the reins as team leader.
Boucher, formerly coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, has made it clear he wants back in the NHL. He's spent the past few seasons coaching Bern in Switzerland after being fired from the Bolts midway through 2012-13. Bern relieved Boucher from his duties this season, so he's a free agent. He led Tampa to a 46-win season and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in 2010-11, so he's due another shot. Boucher was reportedly close to signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer before Mike Babcock swooped in. Boucher is a motivator. He has a Master's degree in sports psychology. He also favors an aggressive forecheck, which nicely suits the Ducks' deep and dilligent-backchecking forward corps.
Randy Carlyle or Marc Crawford
Why these two? They're the only two of the past 20 Stanley Cup champions with any realistic chance to be available. Joel Quenneville, Darryl Sutter, Claude Julien, Dan Bylsma, Babcock, Peter Laviolette, John Tortorella, Bob Hartley and Ken Hitchcock have active NHL coaching gigs. Pat Burns tragically passed away in 2010. Larry Robinson suggested he wouldn't return to another head coaching position because of the stress. Scotty Bowman is long retired, and Jacques Lemaire has been for several seasons, too, unless you count his Leafs gig as special assignment coach.
That leaves Carlyle and Crawford. Carlyle would be the blatant patchwork hire, bringing back the man Boudreau replaced. Carlyle has the familiarity with the Ducks organization and coached Getzlaf and Perry to Anaheim's only Stanley Cup in 2007. Crawford, a 1996 champion with Colorado, just left his post with the Swiss League's Zurich Lions and wants another shot at an NHL job. He makes sense if Anaheim wants a Stanley Cup coach still in his 50s. Crawford, however, missed the playoffs in his past five seasons as an NHL bench boss, once with Vancouver, twice with Los Angeles and twice with Dallas. He has to prove he can still win in the world's top league.
Other names to watch: Trent Yawney, Dallas Eakins
POTENTIAL BOUDREAU LANDING SPOTS
Ottawa is the only NHL team officially looking for a new head coach. It's the logical first choice. The high-octane Boudreau mentality might mesh nicely with Erik Karlsson. Though that implies Karlsson somehow becoming better than he already is, which is bananas.
John Torchetti only carries interim status right now. He guided the Wild to a 15-11-1 record after replacing Mike Yeo. Torchetti may get a full-time look since Minny made the playoffs and put a scare into the top-seeded Dallas Stars. Then again, the Wild weren't any better in the possession game under Torchetti than they were under Yeo. Torchetti hasn't proven himself as slam-dunk coach in the long term. The door may be ajar for Boudreau.
Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets
None of these four has reason to hire Boudreau right now. The Flames' Hartley won the Jack Adams a year ago. But all four franchises could have coaching vacancies if they continue to disappoint in the first half of next season. Boudreau's previous two hirings came as mid-season replacements, and the guess here is he'll earn his next job the same way.
That is…if he's fired at all. Now we wait.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin