A few years ago when HBO cameras walked behind the glass of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals‘ journey to the 2011 Winter Classic, fans were left with a distinct memory of Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. Mainly the memory of a glorious speech given during a second intermission slump in which he used a few choice words a few choice times and people everywhere (or maybe just me) became less than a few steps away from being terrified.
Three years later, the Jack Adams Award winning coach is now behind the bench for the Anaheim Ducks, leading a team once laughed at due to its Hollywood origins through a truly unforgettable season. And any Ducks fan can tell you where the team is today has been a long time coming, especially after their fall from Stanley Cup grace under previous head coach Randy Carlyle.
Boudreau came to Anaheim in 2011 just two days after being fired as head coach in Washington and was handed a talented team in a lackluster slump. On the day of his hiring, the Ducks’ record stood at 7-13-4. Anyone could hardly say the rest of the season went smoothly (the Ducks ended at fifth in the Pacific Division), but their record under Boudreau went 20-10-4.
Last year when news hit that the NHL lockout had finally come to an end, Anaheim flew out of the gates and on to win 30 games of the shortened season, leading them to stand first in the Pacific Division and second in the Western Conference. Despite an early playoff exit, fans could tell times had changed for the team and much of the credit due went to the man at the helm. Whatever choice words he was or was not using in the locker room between periods clearly worked.
Which brings us to the current season with the Ducks atop the NHL standings as the only team thus far to surpass 80 points. The players score the goals every night to make the wins official, but they score on lines and with defensive pairings orchestrated by a smart coach.
When Anaheim took an unfamiliar home loss this past week, Boudreau was the first to step up and remind his team that getting cocky over their stats will result in them finishing the season with stats that are nothing to be cocky about. Even the best teams still have to earn their wins — two nights later, the Ducks took a decisive 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
As of today, the season is far from over, but the Ducks’ strength under the wings of Boudreau is certain. You may not want your kids in back of him at the grocery store when they run out of milk (or maybe you do, he has a sharp sense of humor), but you certainly want to be a hockey fan living in his team’s town. Because just today, I saw four Ducks flags flying down the freeway and well, that’s something we haven’t seen around here in years.