The Canucks’ charge for a Western Conference Wild Card spot has lost steam over the last two weeks and will likely cost them. Having dropped nine of their last 12 games and only picking up 10 points in that stretch leaves them eight points behind the Golden Knights with 12 games to play.
But there’s been a different vibe around the team and about their future after Bruce Boudreau replaced Travis Green as head coach in December. At the time of the change the Canucks were 8-15-2 with a .360 points percentage. Boudreau’s arrival was a breath of fresh air and they won seven in a row and eight of their first nine with the new bench boss.
Now, with the playoffs out of reach, the big question is what’s the deal with Boudreau’s future. When he was hired, it was reported that it was a two-year contract, running through the 2022-23 NHL season. But according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, it’s not quite as cut-and-dry as that.
“He’s on a one-year contract and there’s an option for next year,” Friedman reported on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night. “Nobody will tell me exactly what it is but I think that I’ve kind of pieced it together, and that is that the Canucks have an option to keep him or not, but if they don’t, there’s a payment that has to go to Boudreau and also, Boudreau has an option not to return and if that was to happen, I don’t think he gets a payout but it would put him on the open market at the end of the year.”
Improvement across the board
The Canucks are 24-13-8 since Boudreau took over and have been hovering around the playoff bubble for the last few months because of the change. Their .622 points percentage under Boudreau is better than the Stars, Golden Knights, Oilers, and Capitals. Multiple statistical categories are improved, like the power play (17.4% to 24.6%), penalty kill (64.6% to 78.8%), goals for per game (2.36 to 3.02), and goals against per game (3.16 to 2.67).
It’s an easy decision, right?
“You know what, we haven’t got into those discussions yet,” said Canucks general managaer Patrik Allvin told Sportsnet 650 on NHL Trade Deadline day of Boudreau’s future. “Again, we’re evaluating our team as we move along here. That will be something that we, in our hockey ops, we’ll sit down after the season and talk about it.”
Swapping Green for Boudreau has worked, and it should be just a matter of time before Allvin and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford pick up that option. While we wait, the head coach isn’t too concerned about what his future holds.
Boudreau wants to stay
“I completely don’t think about it,” Boudreau said on Sunday. “I’ve been through this game a long time and whatever happens, happens. I play for the moment and the moment is today. After the game, we’ll sit back and either not be able to sleep or be pretty pumped up about [getting] ready for the next game.”
Turning around teams is the Bruce Boudreau Way™. He did it in Washington, Anaheim, and Minnesota, and is in the middle of doing it in Vancouver. It may not last an extended period of time and playoff success isn’t a guarantee, but he’s shown in multiple NHL stops that changing a culture and fixing on-ice results is what makes him an attractive coaching option.
“I think I’ve done an okay job. And it’s a tough question,” Boudreau said last week after being asked if he’d like an extension beyond next season. “I mean, I want to coach forever, and I really like Vancouver. I guess that sort of answers the question.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.