Ducks can Carlyle, hire Boudreau
|Bruce Boudreau speaks with the media at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Que., March 15, 2011. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)
ANAHEIM - Getting fired from your first NHL head coaching position is normally a difficult experience, but if you thought Bruce Boudreau was going to wallow in self-pity, think again.
Less than three days after being sacked as head coach of the Washington Capitals, the outspoken Boudreau picked himself up off the mat and accepted the same post with the Anaheim Ducks.
The general consensus was that Boudreau wouldn't have to wait long to land another head coaching job, but it's safe to say not many people thought it would happen quite this fast. However, with his club struggling through a disappointing start to the season, Ducks general manager Bob Murray pounced on the chance to replace Randy Carlyle with the newly-available Boudreau.
Much like Boudreau's tenure in Washington had run its course, the Ducks' partnership with Carlyle, which produced the franchise's only Stanley Cup title, had also reached its natural end.
Yet, the Ducks' team that Boudreau inherits is a far cry from the one that Carlyle led to glory in the spring of 2007. Anaheim has had a ton of turnover since then and Carlyle was unable to keep his club playing at an elite level. The Ducks made the playoffs three out of four years since winning it all and only made it to the second round once over that span. Oddly enough, one of the biggest reasons Boudreau was fired by the Capitals was his inability to get that highly-talented club past the second round.
"This was an extremely difficult decision," said Murray after relieving Carlyle of his duties. "Randy is a terrific head coach, and did a tremendous job for us for six-plus seasons. ... At this time, we simply felt a new voice was needed. Bruce is a proven winner with a great track record, and we are optimistic we can turn this season around under his leadership."
Even though Anaheim is only four-plus years removed from a Stanley Cup title, the expectations for Boudreau's new team will be considerably lower than the ones that were weighing him down in D.C. The pressure to win it all in Washington, a franchise that has never lifted the Cup, was at an all-time high and not even four straight first-place finishes in the Southeast Division could protect Boudreau from his fate. After Anaheim's 7-13-4 start under Carlyle, Ducks fans would love to make the playoffs at all this year, even if it ends in another early postseason exit.
Meanwhile, Anaheim has been experiencing a steady decline since its championship year and the team's poor start to the season was a death rattle for Carlyle's tenure in Orange County. Perhaps, he could have survived a few more weeks, but when a coach of Boudreau's stature became available, it was an easy decision to make the change.
One of Boudreau's primary tasks will be getting Anaheim's talented young core to not only produce points, but also to learn how to play winning hockey. The trio of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, who are all 26 years of age and younger, have combined to for 23 goals and 52 points through 24 games this season, but the three forwards also have a cumulative plus/minus rating of minus-25.
The coaching change also casts doubt on Ryan's situation, who was said to be on the trading block in Carlyle's final days with the Ducks. Ryan -- the second overall pick to Sidney Crosby in the 2005 draft -- has posted 30 or more goals in all three of his full NHL seasons and the 24-year-old could still be one of the league's better power forwards.
Now with Boudreau behind the bench, it would probably be wise to hold onto Ryan for the time being, to see how the youngster responds to the new leadership. After all, with the rest of the league salivating at the chance to land Ryan, who is signed through 2014-15, there is no need to trade him immediately.
It's admirable that Boudreau is willing to get right back on the horse in Anaheim, although it would have been interesting to see the outspoken coach take a TV analyst job for a few months while his wounds healed.
Boudreau had a star-making turn on HBO's critically acclaimed 24/7 series last year, as he sweared his way through the documentary series that followed the Caps and Pittsburgh Penguins as they prepared for the Winter Classic. His love of foul language wouldn't carry over to the network or basic cable, but his desire to say what's on his mind would have been a welcome addition to any hockey broadcast.
Time will only tell if TV's loss will be the Ducks' gain.