Vancouver Canucks Fire Bruce Boudreau

In what must be a precursor to other changes, the Vancouver Canucks have fired head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Bruce, There He Goes

Boudreau was brought in as a mid-season replacement for previous Head Coach Travis Green in December 2021. The Canucks relished the change, going 32-15-10 in the 2021-22 season’s remaining games. That record of 74 points in just 57 games wasn’t quite enough to get the team into the playoffs.

It was, however, enough to give the new management group reason to hope for the 2022-23 season. They decided to avoid the steps one normally associates with a rebuild, re-signing a major piece and adding free agents. This year hasn’t gone as well, as Vancouver stumbled to an 0-5-2 start. It took a road trip to visit the Seattle Kraken before their first win.

There has been some hardship for Boudreau, mostly in the form of Thatcher Demko getting injured in the long term. But even before that, the difficult road trip set the team on the wrong foot and they never quite recovered. Offence hasn’t been a problem for the Canucks, but their defence has been a disaster. Through 41 games, the team won a single game when they scored fewer than four goals.

When a Surprise is Not a Surprise

Hiring Bruce Boudreau was a slightly tangled story, given the events around the change. He was apparently Jim Rutherford‘s recommendation to team owner Francesco Aquilini, given before Rutherford was hired. It happened in that order because Rutherford wasn’t sure he would take the management job with the Canucks, but Aquilini asked for his advice so he gave it.

Given the suggestion, it’s safe to venture that Aquilini asked about available coaches who could bring the most out of a team that needed a jumpstart, Which Boudreau does – he has a legacy of pushing veteran players to perform to the best of their abilities. That comes at the expense of youth, but if you’re interested in winning now then that’s the cost. The same thought went into hiring Rutherford himself once his health improved.

Talking Surgery

Unfortunately for everyone, “winning now” isn’t happening. At a press conference – ostensibly called to discuss Tanner Pearson‘s medical setback – Rutherford faced plenty of other questions. He freely admitted to being surprised at how much work there was to do on the team. He described the need for “major surgery” after expecting to use “minor surgery” to get the Canucks on the right track.

Not the smoothest transition, given the subject of the day, but perhaps surgery was on his mind.

In any case, he also confirmed his support for Bruce Boudreau as the team’s head coach. But pressure from outside and failure on the ice finally forced his hand. Boudreau, one of the most successful NHL coaches in history, leaves the team with an 18-25- 3 record.

Next Man Up

His replacement is Rick Tocchet, who hasn’t been a head coach since he and the Arizona Coyotes agreed to end his contract after the 2020-21 season. His career record is 178-200-60. He joins a team that is seemingly players in search of a direction. There are certainly no expectations of reaching the playoffs, and Tocchet’s arrival won’t involve bringing exiled youngsters back from Abbotsford.

The surgery isn’t done, of course. The composition of this Vancouver Canucks team – something that can’t be blamed on Bruce Boudreau – is simply wrong. Hiring Tocchet now wasn’t what the owner wanted, as he now is paying two head coaches not to coach. But they may as well make the best of it, using the remains of the year to establish new systems play.

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