Bruce Boudreau talks to the media in Anaheim

It only took about twelve hours for Randy Carlyle to be fired, Bruce Boudreau to be hired, and for the new coach to meet with the media in Anaheim. Pro Hockey Talk was there as Boudreau addressed the media, talked about his expectations for the rest of the season, and the Ducks players should still expect to make a run at the playoffs.

Here’s the transcript of Bruce Boudreau’s portion of the press conference:

Boudreau statement:

“It’s great to be here. It’s been a wild ride for me for the last week as well. Like Bob said, I sat there on Tuesday and I didn’t believe that this was a team that had the possibilities and the makings of something special, I think I would have sat at home and waited. But I don’t think opportunities like this come around every day with the talent we have here. I talked to my wife about it, I said: ‘I think we should jump at this.’ I know it’s only been a day basically since I got let go, it was something that I thought was a chance that I wouldn’t get again. So, I jumped at it and got in the plane yesterday, and here I am. It’s a new start, I’m looking forward to it, can’t wait to play, and let’s get going.”

Boudreau: “Salvaging the season is winning regularly. Every team has its warts; it’s a question of making less mistakes than the other team. I know it’s very basic, but we don’t get a chance, and I didn’t get a chance, to see Anaheim play as often as I’d like to being a) in the Eastern time zone, and b) the Eastern Conference; we didn’t pay that much attention to them. I do know a few of their players and I do know that they have some great players. They have the players in really prominent role positions that need to be to be a good team. So, not taking anything away from Randy [Carlyle], if we do it together, we should hopefully make strides. Every night and every day. And it’s going to take time, but I think it could be done within the next four months.

On the circumstances being very similar to when Boudreau took over the Caps, memories of first days and months when he took over Caps:

Boudreau: “I think the biggest thing I tried to instill in the Capitals was confidence. They were beaten down a little bit and they had lost for many years. They didn’t believe in themselves. This is a totally different story in that respect, is that they haven’t lost. They have been a really good team. They have just sort of lost their way a little bit. But I told them this morning, I believe in them. I think they’re a really good team and I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t believe that they have a really good shot of doing a lot of good things this year. I want them to believe in themselves. If they do, then good things can happen.”

On the Bobby Ryan rumors that have been floating around this week:

Boudreau: “I just got here. I haven’t paid too much attention to that. I’ll let the first day go before I address [the rumors]. You know, [I need to] talk to Bobby…

On his reputation of being an offensive coach and will he have defensemen jumping into the play?

Boudreau: “I don’t know. I’d like to walk before I can run a little bit. It doesn’t really matter if you win 8-7 or 2-1, I just want to win. If you know me, losing grates on me quite a lot. But I think it’s assessing where your strengths are, then work to your strengths.”

On the comments that said Boudreau had nothing left in the tank in Washington:

Boudreau: “No, I had told George [McPhee] that I had tried everything that I knew with this group right now and it wasn’t working right now. It didn’t mean that it wouldn’t work a week from now, it just didn’t work right then—for those two games I was talking about. It was the Buffalo game and the Winnipeg game. And that hadn’t happened in the previous 4+ years that I was there, so it was more of a surprise for me that it hadn’t worked. I was sort of taken aback by it and I told George that.”

About extracting Carlyle’s philosophies and instilling his own with the Ducks:

Boudreau: “Well, I just do what I do. I can’t say we’re not doing this. Randy is a great coach, good teammate, good friend—all of those things. But I just got to do what I’ve done and what I’ve been used to; what I’ve done has been successful. And those are the things that I know. So we integrate those things, we did a couple of things today. Systems—there’s no right system or wrong system. Coaches have faith in what they’ve done and has been successful for them. What I was doing today [at practice] may have been different from what Randy did, but at the same time, they were both successful. We’ll see if the group can do it, whether it was better for them what I’m showing or it isn’t and we’ll adjust accordingly. I mean, I’ve been with them for one practice, so we’ll see their strengths and their weakness. I just can’t go on and do things that aren’t me. I just have to be me and see how that works.”

On the mood of the team this morning:

Boudreau: “Like all team, when there’s a change, they’re waiting to see how it affects them. It’s hard to tell. They listened very well, I thought, and they looked [like] when they went on the ice they had some ‘jump.’ But I don’t know them individually well enough to know if that was the norm or if it was a different thing for them. Time will tell. But I thought, for me, it was OK.”

On everything moving quickly over the last week, if he would have hung around the house for a while:

Boudreau: “Oh, my wife wouldn’t have liked that very much. No, I was looking for something to do. It’s always important, for me anyway, to get out. I can’t lie around and [not] do anything. I was going to start watching games somewhere, going somewhere. At that time, I was making plans to go to Toronto and do some work with TSN or something. But, this was much better.”

On if any other teams contacted him (or the Capitals about him):

Boudreau: “No, not that I know of. Not with the Capitals, not that I know of; with me no.”

On which place was furthest way from Anaheim:

Boudreau: “…boy, I’ve been everywhere. I don’t know. Just distance-wise, Manchester was the furthest. But when I first started getting into coaching, when you’re coaching in Muskegon, Michigan or Biloxi, Mississippi, you really aren’t looking far enough ahead to think that you’re going to be coaching in Anaheim or Washington. I’ve been lucky.”

On the month (November) starting with his Capitals facing off with the Ducks:

Boudreau: “No, quite frankly I wouldn’t have laid [money on it]. If you could have a crystal ball, this wouldn’t have been something I thought was going to happen.”

On if he’s spoken to Randy Carlyle:

Boudreau: “No. It’s too early.”

On filling the coaching staff out:

Boudreau: “I think we’ll talk to Bob when this is done and we’ll see where it goes.”

GM Bob Murray: “We have some things in the fire that may happen fairly quickly.”

On how he can prevent the players from tuning him out:

Boudreau: “If I knew how to prevent it, I wouldn’t let it happen. So I just hope it doesn’t happen. I hope that they buy into the message and we just surge from here.”

On what his message is to the players:

Boudreau: “I want them to be very positive. I want to be aggressive, I want them to play the way they’re capable of playing. With energy and thinking that they’re going to be successful. The way they should be successful. This was a team that before the season started, if you read a lot of the clippings, they said they would really contend for the Pacific Division crown, and I think they’re very capable of doing it. I want them to believe in themselves. That’s the message for today. Believe in themselves.”

On Ryan/Getzlaf/Perry being linemates going forward:

Boudreau: “The first shift tomorrow they will be. Beyond that, we’ll have to see how they do.”

On any lessons he could take away from the Ovechkin/Semin stuff that went down over the last month in Washington:

Boudreau: “You know what; I mean a lot was blown out [of proportion]. I got along really well with both of those guys and I think I’ve said that for the last week that there was never a problem. With either one. But we all tend to want to make something out of nothing. And we did. So there’s really no story there.”

On the excitement to get started:

Boudreau: “I think nervous excitement goes hand-in-hand. I’m excited, don’t get me wrong. Any time you take a new challenge on, you get excited. And nervous. I’m trying to put a good analogy together—it’s like going to a new school. You want to put your first step, you want to make a good impression with everybody. And you’re following someone who had a lot of success and is really popular. So it’s tough.”

Berube’s coaching style well-suited to Blues’ roster

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

It’s not often that an interim coach is handed the keys to a last-place team and ends up winning the Stanley Cup in the same season.

Not impossible, as Craig Berube proved last season. Just incredibly unlikely.

Berube was as much of an X-factor for the Blues as, say, Jordan Binnington. Without Berube, who knows where the Blues would have ended up. The man known as a ‘Chief’ brought a disjointed team together and began sprinting toward the finish line at a fervent pace.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Three questions | Under Pressure]

The decision to hand Binnington the reins, an 11-game winning streak that followed suit, and a renewed camaraderie amongst the players all happened under Berube’s watch after Mike Yeo was handed his walking papers near the end of November.

“Craig made an enormous impact on our team when he took over last November,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said after the team stripped the interim tag and handed Berube a three-year deal. “He restored our identity and provided our players with a clear sense of direction.”

If that’s not X-factor material, I don’t know what is.

Berube is now tasked with maintaining the team culture he created with, by-and-large, the same contingent of players that he led to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

It’s a tall order.

Nothing was really expected from Berube when he took over. Sure, Blues fans and brass alike would have wanted to see things pointing in the right direction, but never could they have imagined what took place from Jan. 7 onward.

Ask any Blues player and they’ll say it was Berube that was the team’s catalyst as they reversed their fortunes.

Berube, as Armstrong said, instilled an identity and within a month or so, it began to take shape on the ice.

Berube showed that you don’t have to have a flashy team with many superstars to get the job done. And he’ll have another go at proving that is, indeed, the case.

He’ll have the “Stanley Cup hangover” to contend with an, perhaps, a pinch of complacency, even if it is only early on.

The biggest thing the Blues can do is get off to a good start. Stave off any of those hangover effects by stringing a few wins together to begin the season.

You won’t find the impact of a coach in a simple math equation (or a complex one, either.) But simply having a team believe in your cause is a massive boon to any bench boss. The players can now attest that Berube’s direction works, so they can certainly get behind his next installment as he develops the team into the rugged, hard-to-deal-with type that never gave up in last season’s playoffs.

There will be no surprises from the Blues this year. No underestimations from unsuspecting teams.

It will be on Beruble to navigate through that and more.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blues’ Binnington faces whole new world in 2019-20

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Come out of nowhere, steal the No. 1 job, win a Stanley Cup and get a nice payoff all inside six or so months.

It seems hardly believable. Impossible, really.

Yet there stands Jordan Binnington, a 26-year-old formerly journeyman goalie who, prior to puck drop in a Jan. 7 game against the Philadelphia Flyers, was simply a nobody in the NHL world.

Two-and-a-half hours and 25 saves later, Binnington had his first NHL win in his first NHL start and his first NHL shutout all under his belt. A flash in the pan? Far from it, apparently.

Binnington would feature in 29 games in the second half of the season for the Blues. His 24-5-1 record with a .927 save percentage and five shutouts during that span would pull the Blues all the way from the league’s murkiest spot in the basement to third-place in the Central Division.

And from there, he’d start all 26 games the St. Louis Blues played in the playoffs on their magical run to the Stanley Cup. Binnington would set rookie records for wins in a postseason and, ultimately, lift Lord Stanley with a 16-10 record, including a 32-save, .970 performance in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to cement the Blues worst-to-first achievement.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Three questions | X-Factor]

These things simply don’t happen, and yet Binnington willed it into existence with a ‘Do I look nervous to you?’ attitude that was only backed up on the ice.

Binnington’s emergence earned him a two-year, deal worth $4.4 million annually, making him the highest-paid goalie on the Blues (a mere $50,000 more than Jake Allen) and No. 1 status between the pipes heading into the 2019-20 season.

He’s earned it. And now the hard work begins.

There was no pressure on Binnington last season. Every win was met with awe, not expectation. If he had come in and failed, he wouldn’t have been labeled as a bust. If he had crashed out in the first round of the playoffs, he still would have been considered a success.

Winning the Stanley Cup? It’s still hard to fathom, really.

But now Binnington has some statistics to his name. The bar he set for himself is in the realm of the NHL’s elite. And somehow, he has to now make that translate into a full slate of NHL starts — perhaps as many as 60 next season.

That’s where the pressure lies.

Binnington is unproven as a full-time NHL starter, like Carter Hart in Philadelphia. Both had great seasons, but both only played half the year. So questions remain.

There’s nothing, at least at the moment, to suggest that Binnington can’t handle it. Sure, his save percentage dipped in the playoffs, but he handled the pressure of a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final with apparent ease.

He appears to be a true iceman when it comes to that.

Nevertheless, he’s now playing for a bigger payoff in two years after having bet on himself over the next two seasons. His long-term financial gain also hangs in the balance.

Binnington gave fans what they craved and now they’re only going to want more.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Can Blues repeat as Stanley Cup champions?

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Let’s ponder three questions facing the Blues.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Under Pressure | X-Factor]

1. Can they do it all over again?  

If winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest thing to do in hockey, then winning it two years on the trot is that much more difficult.

One team in the salary cap era has been able to pull off a repeat and they had some guy named Sidney Crosby on those teams. The point is that it’s uber-difficult, but a question that every Cup champion faces.

This is the challenge the Blues now face with more or less the same team they won the Cup with this past June. Not much has changed in St. Louis since Alex Pietrangelo hoisted Lord Stanley for the first time in franchise history.

But can a team that was in last place in January and now feeling the effects of the Stanley Cup hangover do it all over again?

The NHL’s tightest-knit group has all the chemistry one could ask for and it’s largely intact from a season ago. And now they have all of that experience to lean upon, as well. But the Central Division is no push-over and several teams have strengthened their squads while the Blues have chosen to rely on what’s within.

It’s certainly a tall order.

2. Will Alex Pietrangelo’s lack of a contract extension be a distraction? 

He’s the team’s captain, talisman and one of the best defensemen in the NHL. And he’s (at this point) entering the 2019-20 season with a year left on his current deal and unrestricted free agency waiting for him next summer.

If you go back to December of last year, you’ll find a lot of ink was spilled where the best trade destinations for Pietrangelo would be. The Blues were an awful team at that point and the Blues, perhaps, could have capitalized on such an intriguing asset. They didn’t and were rewarded in the playoffs with a special performance.

His play during the Stanley Cup run will only have upped his asking price on the free-agent market. And the Blues need to decide on what to do before a John Tavares-like scenario becomes their own reality.

3. Is Jordan Binnington for real? 

We’re going to cover this in a separate post, but it bears mentioning here.

Binnington should probably have won the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s best rookie after he won 24 of 30 decisions he figured in with a .927 save percentage and five shutouts. The most impressive part of all of this is he didn’t start a game until early January.

Now, he could face a schedule with a workload double what he played last season. Those are uncharted waters for 26-year-old.

Binnington made the most of his opportunity when handed one last year. There were no expectations then, however. Now, they’re higher than ever.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

2018-19 

45-28-9, 99 points (3rd in the Central Division, tied for fourth in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup

IN:
Nathan Walker
Derrick Pouliot
Jake Dotchin
Andreas Borgman

OUT:
Jordan Schmaltz
Adam Musil
Nikita Soshnikov
Jakub Jerabek
Patrick Maroon

RE-SIGNED
:
Jordan Binnington
Joel Edmundson
Jordan Nolan
Samuel Blais
Zach Sanford
Robby Fabbri
Oskar Sundqvist
Carl Gunnarsson
Nolan Stevens

[MORE: Three questions | Under Pressure | X-Factor]

2018-19 Summary

Well, that went pretty well, didn’t it?

No matter how many times you hear it, it’s still unbelievable to see the NHL standings on Jan. 3, 2019 and the Blues at the very bottom — 31st overall. Fast forward 160 days and they were hoisting the Stanley Cup celebrating the franchise’s first championship.

It was quite a season for the Blues, who fired head coach Mike Yeo on Nov. 20 after a 7-9-3 start. General manager Doug Armstrong turned to assistant coach Craig Berube to right the ship as the organization planned for a coaching search that would go far and wide.

Under Berube, the Blues didn’t improve much, going 9-10-1 in their first 20 games under the interim bench boss. But then came Jan. 7 and a game at Philadelphia featuring goaltending Jordan Binnington making his first NHL start, which ended with a shutout. Two weeks later they began a franchise-record 11-game winning streak that powered them up the Central Division standings. The winning ways continued through the end of the regular season as St. Louis earned 65 out of a possible 90 points in their final 45 games to finish tied for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference.

Riding their red-hot goaltender and being led offensively by their summer acquisition in Ryan O’Reilly, the Blues took care of the Winnipeg Jets in six games, then the Dallas Stars in a memorable seven-game series before topping the San Jose Sharks in six games to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Their final foe, the Boston Bruins, needed seven games to be defeated, with O’Reilly winning Conn Smythe Trophy honors.

Through the unforgettable ride, the Blues adopted the 1981 Laura Branigan song “Gloria” as their theme after several players heard it in a Philadelphia bar in January. The DJ kept playing the song at the request of a customer and the players decided it would be played in the dressing room following wins.

“Play Gloria!” soon became the rallying cry and took over the city. Also becoming an important part of the Blues’ season was retiring anthem singer Charles Glenn, who continued performing as he battled multiple sclerosis, and 12-year-old Laila Anderson, who was diagnosed with a rare disease called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocystosis. She became friendly with several players and was well enough to attend several games during the season and playoffs, including the team’s Game 7 victory over the Bruins in the Cup Final.

It’s interesting to think what would have happened had Armstrong not had the patience with the roster that he did and chose to blow up the team’s core before things changed. He stayed the course, chose the right coach to replace Yeo, and rode a hot Binnington to an unforgettable finish.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.