Although Anaheim made it to the Western Conference Final this year, Ducks GM Bob Murray wasn’t happy with how the team handled itself in Games 6 and 7 of that series against Chicago. Murray consequently wouldn’t even guarantee the return of head coach Bruce Boudreau until after he had time to conduct an evaluation of the franchise.
Now that process is over and the Ducks have announced that assistant coach Brad Lauer will not be retained. The rest of the coaching staff, including Boudreau, will return, per the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens.
“We’ve spent the last week evaluating everything from top to bottom, including all player and staff performance,” Murray said. “This process is something I believe is essential each and every year, no matter the results of the season. We’ve decided to refocus and change the responsibilities of one of the assistant coach positions. We want to thank Brad Lauer for his hard work and dedication, and we wish him the best of luck in the future.”
There was some speculation about Boudreau’s future with the club, but Murray’s decision to retain him doesn’t come as a surprise. Boudreau has more than his fair share of big game losses, but there’s been a clear line of advancement since he took over as the team’s bench boss. This was the Ducks’ first trip to the Conference Final since 2007.
A general manager publicly throwing his support behind his bench boss, even during difficult times, is fairly common, so it stands out when one passes on the opportunity. That was the case when Ducks GM Bob Murray had the chance to commit to keeping coach Bruce Boudreau.
“Far too early to tell you what I’m thinking. I’ve got lots of thoughts in my mind and I’ve got to sort them out,” Murray told the Los Angeles Times.
The Ducks made it all the way to the Western Conference Final before finally losing to the Chicago Blackhawks, so obviously it’s not hard to find positives. Still, Murray was left bothered by Anaheim’s play, starting with the second period of Game 6 when they allowed three goals.
“We did not react properly whatsoever. All structure — all everything — went right out the window,” Murray said. “Wasn’t impressed by it at all. The unanswered question is still the structure when we get under stressful periods. When you’re not playing well, you have to fall back on your structure. It failed us in a critical moment. That’s what I’m evaluating.”
Intentionally or not — or for that matter, deservingly or not — that plays into the concerns about Boudreau when it comes to high stakes situations. The bench boss has lost more Game 7s (six) than any other coach in NHL history. Anaheim has also been eliminated in that fashion for three straight years.
For his part, Boudreau argued that the record isn’t reflective of anything. As far as he’s concerned, he’s not the one winning or losing those games.
He also suggested that Chicago’s edge in experience was a factor and that’s something Anaheim gained through this run. So to an extent, Anaheim’s issues could be addressed organically. After all, while the Ducks keep losing Game 7s, it’s not as if they’ve been stagnant. They’ve gotten a round further each of the last three years, so an argument could be made that they’re on the right track, even if how the season is tough to swallow.
After losing the Western Conference Final to the Chicago Blackhawks, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau’s record in Game 7s has dropped to 1-6. He’s the only head coach in NHL history with six Game 7 losses to his name and he has the unwanted distinction of leading the only two teams that have ever been eliminated at home in Game 7 for three consecutive years: the Washington Capitals and now Anaheim Ducks.
As previously mentioned, at best, Boudreau has been unlucky to the point of being a significant statistical anomaly. At worst, he’s the link the correlation suggests he is. As far as he’s concerned, he’s not the cause of those defeats.
“I got to believe that it isn’t (reflective of anything),” Boudreau said when the topic of his record in Game 7s was brought up during an interview with Sportsnet’s Fan 590. “People love to relay bad stats to people, but seven games have gone to a Game 7. I don’t win them and I don’t think I’m losing them.”
He also noted that he’s won Game 7s in the ECHL and AHL. “So it’s not a question of me, I think.”
He remains optimistic about the Ducks’ future. He likes the nucleus they already have and noted that the team is young with plenty of players that should be able to build off of this lengthy playoff run. This has been an important experience for 25-year-old goaltender Frederik Andersen in particular.
After having lost to Chicago, he feels that the Blackhawks’ experience was a big asset for them in this series. Going into 2015-16, Anaheim will be in a better position in that regard.
The Ducks shouldn’t hit the panic button