Bruce Boudreau is returning as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks … for the 2022-23 season, anyway.
About a month ago, it was hard to shake the vibes around the Canucks (pointedly?) choosing not to give Boudreau an extension. At the moment, that still appears to be the case.
However, when Boudreau took over as Canucks coach after Travis Green was fired, his contract included an option for the 2022-23 season. It appears that Boudreau and the Canucks decided that was good enough, for now.
The Boudreau camp called the #Canucks this morning to inform the club of the veteran head coach’s decision, I’m told.
Best case scenario for the club. Boudreau just wins games, and has resonated in this market like no head coach since Pat Quinn.
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) May 13, 2022
Canucks got the Boudreau bump in 2021-22, but it wasn’t enough
During the fifth and final season of the Travis Green era, the Canucks began 2021-22 with a pitiful 8-15-2 record. Despite a busy (some might say “sweaty and desperate”) offseason, the Canucks ranked fourth-worst in the NHL with a .360 points percentage. Although it was a heck of a run, the Canucks only made one playoff appearance under Green.
Under Boudreau, the Canucks went 32-15-10, sporting a .649 points percentage that ranked 11th in the NHL (and fifth-best in the West) during that span. As PHT’s Sean Leahy noted, the Canucks improved in just about every statistical category under Boudreau.
Friends, Boudreau also provided a big bump in the subjective category of jolliness.
If you’re like me, Boudreau’s mere visage can make you smile.
Truly, how many coaches would be beloved enough to inspire the dated reference of a “Bruce there it is!” chant?
🗣 BRUCE THERE IT IS! pic.twitter.com/h7jRAXMpP4
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) December 7, 2021
Bruce Boudreau’s teams just keep winning. And, while older coaches can sometimes hamper the development of young players, it seems like the 67-year-old is accentuating the positive with a crucial, struggling star like Elias Pettersson.
boudreau really cares about pettersson 🥺 he'll figure it out!!! pic.twitter.com/RVIXAOfNBr
— clarissa! (@quinnsedgework) January 11, 2022
Honestly, the talk about Bruce Boudreau’s “playoff struggles” often feels unfair. For the Canucks, failing in the playoffs feels like a champagne problem, anyway. Lately, they’ve had enough trouble getting there.
You’d think all of that would combine to land Boudreau a more secure contract with the Canucks. If that’s happening, it apparently will have to wait.
Plenty of other offseason questions for the Canucks
The Canucks crossed “head coaching decision” off of their to-do list, but they have plenty of other things to consider.
- Brock Boeser, 25, is a pending RFA with arbitration rights. There have been rumblings that Vancouver’s not sure he’s worth an expensive new contract. One way or another, the Canucks need to settle that free agent question.
- Bo Horvat, 27, will see his $5.5M cap hit expire after the 2022-23 season. Although Horvat’s a valuable player, he’s one of those centers whose two-way acumen may be a bit overblown. (My guess: because he’s adept at winning faceoffs, with a high 57% success rate this season.)
Evolving Hockey’s three-season player card for Bo Horvat tells some of that story:
To be clear, Horvat brings plenty of offensive value to the Canucks. It’s just that the front office must determine how valuable Horvat would be, and also if he’d fit in well with a possible rebuild/semi-reboot.
- The Canucks did not trade 29-year-old J.T. Miller. Ultimately, the trade market might be more robust for the versatile, valuable forward during the offseason. Miller’s entering a contract year with a team-friendly $5.25M cap hit, so the Canucks need to make a tough call there.
- Elias Pettersson’s contract is covered for some time, but not long-term ($7.35M AAV through 2023-24). The franchise at least needs to consider a possible raise when they’re making other long-term decisions. Thatcher Demko, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Quinn Hughes are all on long-term deals, however.
- Conor Garland‘s a steal at $4.9M, and for a while (through 2025-26). That said, his name bubbled up enough in trade rumors to at least be worth mentioning again. If they moved the 26-year-old, you’d think it would signal a significant rebuild … but hockey teams are odd. (Not giving Bruce Boudreau a more secure extension seemed odd, after all.)
Some might think that everything about the Canucks screams “rebuild.” On the other hand, you can spend years hoping to draft a Pettersson or a Hughes. Both players are in the meat of their primes, and on bargain deals. Demko’s shown promise at a fair price ($5M), too.
And, you know, they’re probably stuck with bad contracts in OEL and Tyler Myers, anyway, so there may only be so much room to go cheap for a season.
With Boudreau leading Pettersson, Hughes, and who knows, the Canucks could give it another go with a core that’s still intriguing. They could try to do a bit of both, possibly moving one or more of Horvat, Boeser, and Miller.
Keeping Boudreau around is unlikely to make it easier for the Canucks to tank, though.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.