Profiles in Excellence: Bruce Boudreau

…And on the third day he rose again.

The firing and then hiring of Bruce Boudreau must be seen as the hockey story of the week.

When the news was announced on November 28 of his termination by the Washington Capitals, my feelings were one of shock but not surprise. When I was nominating Bruce Boudreau for greatness a month ago I wrote that Boudreau and the Caps were at a metaphorical crossroads and that this season would be a test of their collective will come playoff time.

Who would have thought that right after I wrote those lines that the Caps would fade from dominance; fall below the .600 level in winning percentage for the first time since 2007; struggle to maintain second place; rank way below average in defense, power-play offense (once their greatest strength) and penalty-killing; and all the while playing as if they were asleep in the Gurdjieffian sense?

And yet they were…

And so Caps general manager George McPhee did the rote act by firing Bruce Boudreau.

But when the news emerged December 1 that Anaheim canned Randy Carlyle and replaced him with Boudreau, again I was shocked but not surprised.

Despite his failure to reach the Stanley Cup finals, let alone win the Stanley Cup, Bruce Boudreau has too much bronco coaching talent to rusticate at home. Gabby still brings enormous coaching and motivational talent to the bench and getting the suffering Anaheim Ducks back into the Pacific division fray is a worthy challenge. The Ducks (although doddering by athletic standards) still has talent to win. They were a playoff team last year. They have young lions in Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. The key for Boudreau is to repair the Duck’s broken wings and give them freedom to fly again.

NHL coaching legends are built on accepting and overcoming challenges like the one Boudreau is facing now.

In my mind the big surprise was the fact that it was Anaheim that went after Boudreau. I felt that Colorado, Calgary, or Columbus would have made the offer to Boudreau but Anaheim it is, and when you look at it perhaps it’s not so surprising at all. Even though the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007 and were in the playoffs last season, the team has declined significantly. This has been the worst performance thus far in Randy Carlyle’s NHL coaching career. The Ducks had failed to reach the playoffs in 2010 (the first time that had happened to Carlyle) and the Ducks’ decline this season was even worse that Washington’s. When the time comes to make a coaching change and you need to fire a top-notch coach like Randy Carlyle you need to find a coach of equal stature to replace him.

The choice of Bruce Boudreau is a no-brainer and supremely appropriate.

We shall see if Gabby can crack my top-50 list after all.

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