Following their first-round ouster at the hands of the Nashville Predators, the Anaheim Ducks announced today that they’ve parted ways with head coach Bruce Boudreau. The 61-year-old native of Toronto immediately becomes one of the most sought-after free agent coaches on the market, with the Ottawa Senators thought to be a potential suitor.
While the Calgary Flames do currently have Bob Hartley under contract for one more season as head coach, we had a thought: Bruce Boudreau and the Flames would be a perfect fit going forward.
WHY BOUDREAU FOR THE FLAMES?
Bruce Boudreau is a coach that has a long record of regular season success. He coached the Washington Capitals for the better part of four seasons and led them to four division titles. Then he moved onto Anaheim and led the Ducks to four division titles. The guy knows how to win.
Moreover, in addition to having standings success, his teams’ success usually comes “the right way”: through playing intelligent, possession-driven hockey. Want some examples?
Washington was a 49.2% CorsiFor team in 2006-07, prior to Boudreau’s arrival. During his four mostly-full seasons as head coach the team went 55.3%, 54.5%, 53.5% and 51.6%. The season where he departed (2011-12) and the season after (2012-13)? 48.0% and 49.8%. That’s a pretty big difference.
See if you can spot the part where Boudreau got fired (via Corsica).
How about Anaheim? In 2010-11, prior to his arrival, they were 44.4% CorsiFor. The next four seasons? 47.7%, 49.3%, 51.3% and 52.2%.
And when he got hired (Corsica).
His teams have also consistently improved in shots for per game and in faceoffs during his tenures. The guy can make a difference. He’s shown in two stops that he can help good teams become really good (borderline great) teams, and he’s one of the winningest coaches in recent NHL history.
Best regular season points pct all-time (min 500 games as HC):
Boudreau – .659
Bowman – .657
Blake – .634
Quenneville – .616
Shero – .612
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) April 29, 2016
Oh, and the Flames had one of the best offensive teams in hockey last season but suffered on special teams and with their defensive game.
Bruce Boudreau was head coach of the NHL’s No. 1 defence, power-play and penalty kill this season. Fired.
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) April 29, 2016
WHY NOT HARTLEY?
We’ve written a bunch about this lately, notably when I finished the regular season off by sharing my thoughts on why the Flames need a new coach for next season.
But our own Mike Fail waxed poetic on this, and you should probably read his fantastic contribution to this:
The gap between average coach to good coach is so razor thin in this
league. Not only that, the incestuous nature of the NHL currently
muddies perceptions of perceived impact versus actual impact. Along with
that, you can factor in the narratives that travel with every coach,
every player, and every person in management which leads us to the age
old question of:
Does this person provide a measurable or discernible impact in their role?
the first and foremost question you need to ask as a fan, as media, as
someone articulating an opinion. And it’s no more prominent in player
analysis than coaching itself. With that comes the onslaught of inputs
and outputs to try and assess whether or not someone like Bruce Boudreau
is either marginally better or exponentially better than a cohort like
What this shows is, if anything, based on the Anaheim
Ducks’ miserable start when they were maligned with poor luck and
various other issues is that adapting can lead to success. Even if they
Ducks fell in the first round by way of various other factors, you
cannot deny in a similar situation to Mike Johnson / Mike Sullivan in
Pittsburgh that this is an impressive story of the season.
Boudreau fought off the specter of termination during the regular season
to go on an impressive run. In his own right, acknowledging that the
team he is supporting and coaching has issues, Boudreau with his coaching
staff acknowledged what was happening and solved it.
(Ryan again: want a stark example of this? Anaheim came into Calgary on December 29 as the NHL’s second-worst team. Everyone was openly discussing Boudreau’s imminent firing. The Ducks played a low-event game, swatting down stretch passes and grinding out a win. Hartley had no strategic answer for this tactic. From then on, the Ducks become one of the hottest teams in hockey, while the Flames went ice-cold.)
This isn’t a
slight at Hartley, but we know first hand based on several years of
inability to solve problems at times that this is a measurable
difference between the two coaches. Of course, it’s even further
magnified with Hartley’s quotes about needing to block more shots.
is missing the point completely and the maladies that affect this
Calgary Flames team. If you cannot effectively – under the guise of your
role, with the support of others around you, and with whatever data
around – solve a problem then that in its own right is a problem.
the roster given to you, finding out all the strengths that make your
player successful in their own right, adapting to the weaknesses that
your roster has, and embracing a progressive approach to the game is
what makes a coach successful.
And by no means does that absolve
Boudreau of at times being stubborn, but his track record shows he’s
able to make things happen even in some of the trickiest situations with
player personnel. An area of value that Calgary so desperately needs.
Boudreau was stubborn to a fault at times. But Murray gave him Stoner, Bieksa and a Gibson-above-Andersen mandate to work with.
— Puq (@ducksallday) April 29, 2016
(Ryan again: let’s be blunt. There’s no freaking way that a team with the personnel the Flames have should have been as bad as they were on the power-play. Or defensively.)
WHY THE FLAMES FOR BOUDREAU?
Here’s a listing of a few players that the Flames have under control for a while:
- Johnny Gaudreau, one of the NHL’s emerging offensive superstars.
- Sean Monahan, a burgeoning young two-way center and a strong offensive player in his own right.
- Mikael Backlund, one of the NHL’s most effective 200-foot forwards (and a strong penalty killer).
- Michael Frolik, a strong defensive forward and an excellent penalty killer.
- 19-Year-Old Sam Bennett, a blossoming young offensive forward.
- Mark Giordano, a regular part of Norris Trophy discussions and one of the league’s best offensive blueliners.
- T.J. Brodie, the master of the stretch pass and arguably one of the most underrated defenders in hockey.
- Dougie Hamilton, a big-bodied defender just growing into his offensive talent.
(They have Jon Gillies, Oliver Kylington, Brandon Hickey, Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson on their way up, plus oodles of draft picks in June’s draft.)
The Flames have a really interesting, emerging young core group. They have an ownership with deep pockets that has the ability to throw money at problems. They’re in a really passionate hockey market with a building that’s pretty full considering the team wasn’t great this past year.
Oh, and they’re probably a team that Boudreau knows very well given how often the Ducks have played (and embarrassed) the Flames in recent years.
Let’s cut to the chase. We’ve been pretty adamant around here that the Flames need some additional forward depth, a new coach and goaltending help this summer to take a big step forward. The Pribyl signing and the draft lottery might take care of forward depth, but adding Boudreau to the fold would allow that big step forward to potentially become a giant leap forward. He’s an excellent tactical coach who just happened to take the fall for some underachieving players in Anaheim.
He’d be a marvelous fit in Calgary.