By: Trent Leith / April 4, 2022
Since the Canucks loss to the St. Louis Blues on March 30th, all excitement surrounding the team has more or less died, but that hasn’t stopped fans from finding something to talk about. The latest talking point making the rounds is what Bruce Boudreau’s future with the Canucks looks like.
The Canucks started the 2021-22 season with Travis Green as head coach and the team put up an 8-15-2 record in the 25 games to start the season, which resulted in a 0.360 points percentage. During that time with Green, the Canucks had a powerplay percentage of only 17.4% and a historically low penalty kill percentage of 64.6%.
When Bruce Boudreau was hired it seemed like magic, immediately the Canucks went on a seven-game win streak. Since Boudreau joined the team the Canucks have had a 24-13-7 record with minimal personal changes, which is a 0.625 points percentage. If the Canucks were to have started the season with Boudreau at the helm, the Cancks are playing at a pace that would have them second in the Pacific Division, behind only the Calgary Flames.
Not only has Boudreau been able to bump up the win percentage on this team, but he has also been able to turn around the special teams. The powerplay is now operating at 24.4% and the penalty kill is up to a much more respectable 78.2%. The powerplay is operating at the ninth-best in the league over the stretch since Boudreau took over, and the penalty kill has gone from a historically bad to 18th in the league.
So where does the talk of Boudreau not returning come from? Well, there are some rumblings from the insiders around the league that Canucks management might not be as committed to Bruce as Bruce is to the Canucks. It all started when the new Canucks GM Patrik Allvin was on Sportsnet 650. Allvin was asked if he sees Boudreau as the head coach long term
“We haven’t got into those discussions yet. We are evaluating our team as we move along here and that is something that we the hockey ops will sit down and talk about after the season”
From there the insiders around the league started to check in on the situation.
“There is a possibility that Boudreau might not be coming back next year,” Elliotte Friedman said on the 32 Thoughts Podcast “It hardly seems like a 100% foregone conclusion that he is coming back next season which I find incredibly hard to believe”
That does sound incredibly hard to believe, especially when you look at how much he has managed to elevate this team. There were no notable transactions to help the team until the trade deadline when Travis Hamonic was moved out and Travis Dermott was brought in. Boudreau has brought the powerplay into the top 10 of the league and improved the penalty kill by nearly 12%.
Thomas Drance said on Donnie and Dhali “There have clearly been some breadcrumbs left in terms of some of the commentary that management has had. Not just the tepid endorsement following the trade deadline by Patrik Allvin on Sportsnet 650, but also some of the commentaries on the structure and practice habits.” He continued “The comments on how this team has performed by Patrick Allvin and Jim Rutherford publicly over the course of the last six weeks has given us grounds to wonder.”
The speculation around the situation is that because Canucks management didn’t hire Boudreau, and he was brought in by ownership before the new management team had formed, he perhaps doesn’t exactly fit the idea of what this management group is looking for in a coach.
But what else could you be looking for from a coach? Well, Boudreau’s biggest weakness is playoff performance. Boudreau has made the postseason ten times as a head coach and in those ten appearances, he has only made it out of the first round four times, and only to the third round once.
Boudreau isn’t known as an Xs and Os style coach, focusing less on systems on the ice, but rather focusing on hard work and getting players to buy in and play for him, in a more general sense. When the post-season tightens up and everything gets more difficult, it’s easy to see why a team less focused on systems and playing right might struggle. But shouldn’t the Canucks focus on getting to the playoffs before they focus on how they might play when they arrive there?
When Boudreau was hired by the Canucks it was reported originally that he was signed to a two-year contract, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that in reality. Boudreau and the Canucks have an option to add a second year to the deal. If the Canucks decide to move on from Boudreau, he will receive some compensation and become a free agent. If Boudreau decides it’s best for him to move on, he does not get any compensation, but again is a free agent.
I think I speak on behalf of most fans however when I say, I hope Boudreau gets an extension in the summer and returns for the next few years.