Bruce Boudreau

Mad genius or mad man? Bruce Boudreau’s accidental goalie controversy stirs the pot


Tomas Vokoun gets to start tonight’s game against Tampa Bay for the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. on Versus). If we’d have told you that were going to be a big deal before the season, you’d probably tell us we were crazy. Instead, it’s part of the season’s most surprising controversy.

Bruce Boudreau’s choice to start Michal Neuvirth in the Caps’ season opener against Carolina caught not just Vokoun off guard but the rest of the NHL world as well. After all, when a player is brought in to be the team’s starting goalie and they don’t start the first game, that’s going to be questioned.

Boudreau has a lot of pressure heading into this season and with the additions the Caps made in the offseason, the one position that figured to be without drama was goalie. Now, it’s the biggest story of the early part of the season for Washington and one that has Caps fans rushing to defend Boudreau while outsiders raise more questions about what he’s doing behind the bench.

Neuvirth had the more impressive preseason while Vokoun struggled. Rewarding good play is something a coach should be commended for. Instead, Boudreau is under fire for not being able to manage personalities the right way. Whether there’s a controversy as to who the starter is or not (those on the inside say there isn’t one), it’s going to be a story line that hangs around all season long.

Where Boudreau is getting things right is getting these issues figured out early in the season rather than having them pop up late in the year and potentially derail a playoff run. For Boudreau’s sake, he’d better hope that things do get figured out by the time the playoffs roll around, or else it will be his job that’ll be on the line.

It’ll be on Vokoun to show that Boudreau made a mistake by beating the team that took Washington out of the playoffs last year. Is Bruce Boudrean a mad genius or mad man? We’ve got all season to figure that out.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado