Scott Walker’s tenure as Bruce Boudreau’s assistant coach for the Vancouver Canucks might not have been long. But in his first radio appearance since quietly parting ways with the team during the offseason, he left a lasting memory.
During an interview on Sportsnet 650’s Canucks Central on Tuesday, Walker discussed his decision to step away, as well as his relationship with Bruce Boudreau and his general disdain for hockey analytics.
Walker’s decision to leave Vancouver wasn’t all that surprising to the people closest to him. With no guarantee of a long-term contract on the table, the long distance from his wife and kids in Guelph, Ontario was the deciding factor in stepping away.
It was an outcome that Walker had cautioned new President of Hockey Ops Jim Rutherford about when he took the helm in December.
“Once Jimmy came in, he said ‘Well, I want to give you this.’ I said ‘Listen to me. Two years is fine, but I’m only guaranteeing you till the end of this year,'” Walker said. “It’s not that I would have been or wouldn’t have been able to come back. But my daughter’s finishing high school and is getting ready to go to university, and my son is 19.”
“I wasn’t willing to commit, and I also obviously wanted to be respectful to them and give them time to find people they need.”
The former Canucks winger was already expecting to join Bruce Boudreau behind the bench if a midseason hire came. So when Boudreau was hired by team owner Francesco Aquilini in mid-December, Walker was the first person he called.
“I was at my brother-in-law’s for a birthday party or something near Christmas. And I got the call and [Boudreau] basically said ‘Hey, you gotta get ready. Like we’re getting on a plane right now and we’re gonna pick you up in Toronto,'” Walker said. “There was no talk of a contract, no talk or nothing. So I jumped on the plane, flew out, and started the next day.”
“I worked for three weeks without a contract. We were talking about one, but I wasn’t really concerned about that.”
Walker had previously played under Boudreau for a handful of games with the Washington Capitals in 2009-10 before working with him in a series of roles for Hockey Canada last year. So he knew exactly what type of bench he was signing up for when he joined the Canucks.
“I’ve been around Bruce a lot. His life is wanting to make people feel positive and feel good about themselves,” Walker said. “He has a knack for the X’s and O’s to get the players in the right spots, but he also gives them the freedom to go and play. And you could see obviously the players just thrived in it.”
But while the majority of the 20-minute interview was waxing poetic about Boudreau and the team around him, when the subject of analytics was approached, Walker went in a different direction. Despite having worked in various player development roles for the Canucks from 2015 until 2019, when he left to join the Arizona Coyotes’ front office as a special assistant to then-GM John Chayka, Walker was dismissive about the importance of understanding advanced hockey stats.
“I was totally against analytics in hockey. I mean, show me an analytical team that’s won the Stanley Cup,” Walker said. “People would say our analytics weren’t great when we were in Vancouver, but we were winning games.”
“You’re nine games over .500, you end 12 games over .500? That’s the only analytics I care about in life.”
While Walker was quick to reassure that his opinions on the subject aren’t the be-all and end-all, it illustrated a line of thinking that clashes with core values of the new front office assembled by Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin. With upper management and the coaching staff required to be in sync on roster decisions, it wouldn’t be surprising for Walker’s eventual replacement to have the opposite mindset to provide more balance to the bench.
Regardless, Walker provided the Canucks locker room with a breath of fresh air when they needed it most; during a tumultuous season that was quickly slipping away. Even after being struck by an errant puck in mid-January caused months of vertigo issues, Walker returned in March to help pull the Canucks back to within striking distance of the playoffs.
He and Bruce Boudreau righted the ship together. But as the captain searches for a new first mate, Scott Walker will be sailing alone into the Guelph sunset.
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