Minnesota Wild Shutout by Nashville, Fading Playoff Hopes Raise Questions About Bruce Boudreau's Job Security
The Minnesota Wild have lost 1-0 at home to the Nashville Predators, and Minnesota's hopes in the fierce wild card battle have just gotten dimmer. The most resonant thought of all though, is how Bruce Boudreau's head coaching position with the Wild will be in legitimate jeopardy if the Wild miss the playoffs this year. The 64-year-old bench boss is unfortunately famous for having immense regular-season success, but having nothing to show for it come playoff time. Since being hired by the Wild in 2016, he has a dreadful 2-8 playoff record with the Wild, and now faces the tough possibility of missing the playoffs entirely. There has been talk about the Minnesota Wild being Stanley Cup contenders for years now. If Boudreau cannot find a way to stimulate the team very late in the season, and the Minnesota Wild management and fanbase do not accept the bad timing of Zach Parise's injury as an excuse for underachieving, a coaching change may very well be appropriate. Bruce Boudreau does have a lot of positive characteristics as a coach. However, if general manager Paul Fenton feels the need for the team to go in a new direction, there are many potential head coaching candidates who can comfortably fit the bill. Let's name some.
Joel Quenneville - An obvious choice. The 3-time Stanley Cup winning coach's services will be wanted by numerous teams by the end of the season. If the Wild miss the playoffs and are head-over-heels for the 60-year-old and his historic post-season success, they will need to make changes instantaneously before Coach Q signs with another team.
Bob Hartley - Currently the head coach of the Avangard Osmk in Russia's KHL, the 58-year-old has a Stanley Cup championship under his belt (Colorado Avalanche 2000-2001), as well as a commendatory 54-41 NHL post-season record. From coaching Ray Bourque to his only Stanley Cup in his 21st and final NHL season, to guiding the Calgary Flames in 2015 to their first playoff series win since 2004, he should be a top candidate for sure.
Alain Vigneault - While Alain Vigneault may not be serving coaching duties anywhere right now, the 57-year-old has 16 seasons of NHL head coaching experience, and has had 11 playoff appearances. While Vigneault has no Stanley Cup championships in his name, he was able to make 2 Stanley Cup Final appearances: guiding the Canucks to the Final in 2011 and the Rangers to the Final in 2014.
Michel Therrien - Talk about the King of Misfortune! Imagine losing in the Stanley Cup Final one year, getting fired mid-way through the very next season, and your team not only goes back to the Stanley Cup Final without you, but they win it this time around and they win it against the very same team that beat them the season prior. This should not in any way reflect Michel Therrien negatively. The 55-year old Montrealais (French for Montreal native), is a very strong and passionate leader. During his tenure in Pittsburgh, Therrien played a huge role in Sidney Crosby's development, was able to guide the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 (which was just a pipe dream for the organization only a few year prior), and really crafted the team that won the Cup the next year. During his second stint with the Montreal Canadiens, he was a huge part of the transformational efforts that guided the team from a 28th place finish out of 30 teams in 2012, to a Conference Final appearance just two seasons later. In 2017, Montreal was at the top of their division when he was fired by Marc Bergevin, and let's be clear: there was absolutely no honorable reason for him to be canned when he was.
Dave Hakstol - Having coached T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews at the college level, and being the first head coach to be hired for an NHL team coming straight out of the NCAA in over 30 years back in 2015, 50-year-old Hak has proven to be an extensively mission-oriented leader who is totally underrated for his mesmerizing abilities to teach and communicate. With the bold leadership he provided his very first season behind the bench, the Flyers overachieved and were able to make the Playoffs with a 12-point regular-season improvement versus the previous season before Hakstol's arrival. In each his three full seasons behind the bench, the Flyers were above .500, and were able to make the playoffs in 2 of those seasons. While Hakstol's playoff record is an unflattering 4-8, it still beats Boudreau's 2-8 during his tenure with the Wild, and Hakstol's ambition to take on difficult challenges and maximize his powerful work ethic after being underestimated and defamed by Philadelphia fans, in my eyes gives him unique, priceless assets that I don't even see in Mike Babcock or Joel Quenneville.
Other, Lesser-Considered Candidates That Fenton May Want to Think About:
Sheldon Keefe - Does not have NHL head coaching experience, but is a red-hot, rising star. The 38-year old Keefe has guided the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League to 2 regular season titles and a Calder Cup championship in 2018.
Kris Knoblauch - Knoblauch was able to post three consecutive 50+ wins at the OHL level. He does have NHL head coaching experience, but served under Dave Hakstol as an assistant coach in Philadelphia with the Flyers. Please NOTE: his age is unknown, I didn't leave it out by accident. Look him up, he's appears to be a pretty young guy, and could have a sharp, fresh mind consistent with his youthful age.
Darby Hendrickson - 46-year old Darby Hendrickson is currently an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild and could be a nice, relatable match for the Wild roster. Fun fact: he played for the Wild in their first four seasons, and even scored the first goal at the Xcel Energy Center for the Minnesota Wild, back in 2000. Familiarity could be incredibly beneficial for the Wild, and because Hendrickson is a known face and leader already for the Wild, a promotion for Hendrickson could turn out to be a good move.
Bob Motzko - The 57-year old-head coach of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men's ice hockey team has a flattering 276-190-49 career head coaching record, and could be a terrific asset for the Wild. With David Quinn and Jim Montgomery following Dave Hakstol's lead in going straight from the NCAA to the NHL, Motzko would be a great candidate to add on to this trend.
Scott Gordon - The 56-year-old had a rocky stint with the New York Islanders, but appears to be having a solid, coaching comeback with the Philadelphia Flyers this season. Being hired mid-season on an interim basis in Philadelphia, he has been able to put the struggling flyers on a good track, and while they are not in the playoffs at this point in time, they are back to being a +.500 team again (for now), and most likely will end the season that way. If Chuck Fletcher (coincidentally the former Wild GM), chooses to hire a different coach this off-season that he will give permanent status to, Scott Gordon's impressive ability to turn around the Flyers should at least put his name in the hat if he does not get signed to coach in Philadelphia for the 2019-2020 season.
Comments are much appreciated, and it would be great to hear from Minnesota Wild fans and also just general NHL followers that if the Minnesota Wild miss the playoffs, whether they should keep Boudreau, choose a coach from this list, or choose a different coach that I have not listed.
© 2019 Griffin Wilson Boynton