Bruce Boudreau exits as one of the most successful coaches in Canucks history by any measure
Photo credit:© Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
4 months ago
Bruce Boudreau is finished with the Canucks, and he has officially been replaced by Rick Tocchet as of Sunday morning.
Despite the best efforts of the fans, Boudreau’s final moments with the team were incredibly bittersweet, with strong emphasis on the “bitter” portion of that term. Boudreau exited to the sound of the iconic “Bruce, there it is!” chant echoing through the halls of Rogers Arena. He left in tears, but he also left with his head held high, both in the literal and figurative senses.
Boudreau, despite the circumstances, still leaves as one of the most successful coaches in Vancouver Canucks history.
Just going by the raw records, Boudreau concludes his time with the Canucks as the holder of a 50-40-13 record. That’s a .549 points percentage, good enough for fourth all-time by a Canucks coach.
Alain Vigneault is miles ahead of the rest of the group with a .632 percentage, and won’t be caught anytime this decade. But the only other two ahead of Boudreau on the list are Marc Crawford and Pat Quinn, each tied with a .554 point-percentage.
Coming into this weekend’s back-to-back games, Boudreau was the sole holder of second place with a .568 percentage. Had the team won just one more game for Boudreau on Friday or Saturday, he would have finished a smidgen ahead of Crawford and Quinn, two coaches who oversaw incredibly successful periods in team history.
That, in a vacuum, is noteworthy. Given the circumstances, it’s kind of remarkable.
Yes, at the point that the decision was made to replace Boudreau with Tocchet, only Vigneault had achieved more success in Vancouver. That really puts things in perspective as to how outlandishly high expectations were set for Boudreau, and how earnest an effort he made to meet them all the same.
It’s also worth comparing Boudreau’s rate of success with that of his immediate predecessor, Travis Green. After all, the rosters that Boudreau and Green coached were very similar, so there’s no better way to measure Boudreau’s true impact.
Through five seasons with the team, Green achieved a 133-147-34 record, good enough for a .478 point-percentage and a tie for eighth all-time in team history. That sounds pretty solid, honestly, but it still means that Boudreau was able to dredge a .086 increase out of his lineup, which is considerable.
Boudreau’s Canucks also saw a significant jump in their power play success rate, up to 24.8% from Green’s 19.7%. One might be surprised to learn that Boudreau’s Canucks were actually less successful overall on the penalty kill than Green’s, to the tune of 73.5% to 78.8%. Given the major rebound that stat made last year under Boudreau’s watch, from a historic low to somewhat respectable, that he finishes with a worse PK is a testament to how bad this year’s group has been.
The less said about how Boudreau’s time with the Canucks stacks up against Tocchet’s head coaching record, the better.
But being an NHL head coach is about a lot more than just wins, losses, and special teams.
In forging connections with and winning the respect of his players, Boudreau has to be considered successful. Just look at the pained expressions on the faces of the Canucks as they left the ice on Saturday night, knowing that they’d seen the last of their beloved bench boss.
In terms of winning the hearts of the fans, ‘nuff said. No coach ever has been or will be as easygoing with the local media. Each of these are important and underrated aspects of coaching in the big leagues, and Boudreau handled them all with tact and aplomb. In fact, he made it look easy.
What about the power to absorb and deflect controversy? That do anything for ya? That’s always an important part of being an NHL head coach, and in the Vancouver market in particular, it’s downright integral to the job.
Now, we sincerely hope that no coach is ever again put through the emotional wringer that Boudreau was just wrung through. But if one were, it’s nearly impossible to imagine them handling it better and with more dignity and class than Boudreau has.
Basically from the moment he was hired, he had management hinting that they’d have rather gone in a different direction. Boudreau said nothing, and instead responded with an unprecedented string of wins to start his Vancouver tenure.
When Boudreau wasn’t quite successful at the Herculean task of bringing the 2021/22 Canucks all the way back to the playoffs, he was left to twist in the wind for almost the entire offseason with his contract status undecided. Plenty of people complained about the situation, but not Boudreau, who expressed nothing short of gratitude when it was finally decided he would return for this season.
Meanwhile, POHO Jim Rutherford and, to a lesser extent, GM Patrik Allvin took multiple opportunities to get on national television and throw their head coach under the bus. They criticized his lack of structure, they laid roster issues at his feet, and they openly speculated about hiring someone else for the job. Despite having the adoring media wrapped around his finger, Boudreau never so much as threw back a single barb or snarky comment.
Even this past week, with the writing on the wall and his successor already metaphorically moving into his office, Boudreau kept his head held high and refused to take the bait. His emotional response on Friday to a question about what it means to him to be an NHL coach said it all, really. Throughout his career, Boudreau has clearly never lost sight of the enormous privilege that comes with coaching hockey at the highest level of competition in the world. He never stopped being grateful for the job, or even just the opportunity to come into the rink every day.
Boudreau appreciated coaching in this market as much, if not more, than this market appreciated him.
Compare that to the arrogance, self-assuredness, and “meant-to-be-here” attitude of some others in the organization, and there’s a stark contrast to be found.
That contrast, however, will have to be an external one from here on out. Boudreau’s days as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks are over. The better for him, the worse for us all.
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