Bruce Boudreau

NHL on NBCSN: Should Wild’s future include Bruce Boudreau?

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and the Minnesota Wild with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Wild are hanging on to a Western Conference wild-card spot following Monday’s defeat to Philadelphia and hoping to find a way into the postseason to better their efforts over the last two springs. Three straight first round exits meant bye-bye to general manager Chuck Fletcher. Will a playoff miss or another early postseason disappointment mean goodbye to head coach Bruce Boudreau? The PHT staff give their thoughts on whether he should remain behind the bench beyond this season.

SEAN: The most-needed, realistic change for the Wild happened in April when they decided to not bring back Fletcher and hired Paul Fenton as new GM. Fletcher was the one that built this Minnesota roster, one that had some good times, but mostly has been hindered and will continue to be hindered by the long-term contracts he handed out during his tenure.

All Boudreau has done is continue to do what he does best: make teams competitive. We know his post-season record isn’t pretty, but with three NHL teams over his career, he’s been able to turn them around and win eight division titles and record eight 100-point seasons.

During Boudreau’s two-and-a-half seasons with the Wild the team is 10th in wins (116), seventh in goals per game (3.06), seventh in goals against (2.69), seventh in power play success (21 percent), and third in penalty kill success (82.6 percent). Some of those categories have improved each season, but goal scoring is down this season to 2.82 per game. While Zach Parise (19) is bouncing back strong, Eric Staal (13) is coming back down to earth after a 42-goal campaign last season. Jordan Greenway looks to have a bright future, but where’s the rest of the secondary scoring?

The head coach can only do so much with the roster he’s given, and given that the Wild are in a playoff spot at the moment, it’s a testament to the job Boudreau has done.

This is an old Wild team and Fenton is going to need to be creative in reshaping the roster into his liking. Going forward, that roster should include Boudreau behind the bench.

JAMES: This is a remarkably tricky situation, actually. I’ll admit that it’s tough, in part, because I legit worry about Boudreau’s health in coaching middling teams. The dude’s face basically turns into a mood ring of reds and purples over, say, goals and penalties.

If the Wild want to grind out every possible win, then keeping Boudreau is the smart choice. He’s an exceptional coach. Honestly, I get the feeling he actually helped the Wild be misleadingly good for longer than virtually anyone could ask for, as the roster Fletcher left behind is a real mixed bag.

It really hinges on what Fenton can do.

Would Charlie Coyle and other decent trade chips actually turn out to be the sort of great trade chips that could actually jumpstart a respectable rebuild? Could Fenton trick someone into sending an enormous trade package for Ryan Suter? (I’m guessing the dream of moving Parise’s matching, problem contract is too far-fetched, although Peter Chiarelli is still employed …)

In summary: if the Wild think they can rebuild, then dismissing Boudreau would … well, help them tank. If they plan on staying the course – which is more reasonable than usual because they simply might be stuck – then keeping Boudreau would get the most out of what they have.

Personally, I’d go the rebuild plan, but again, it’s because I actually really like Boudreau and want him to go to a team where he can win, eat ice cream, and generally be merry.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

ADAM: My reasoning for arguing that Boudreau should continue to be a part of the future in Minnesota is very simple: I still think he is one of the best coaches in the NHL, and as long as you have one of the best coaches in the NHL I can’t see firing him unless you have a darn good reason to or have a definite upgrade waiting. Right now I do not see that being the case, unless the Wild do something totally outrageous like go all in on Joel Quenneville. I know the first half of the season has not gone according to plan, but this is still a team that coming into this season having won 94 games in his first two years behind the bench, tied for the fifth-most in the league.

I don’t think the problems so far this year are the result of coaching.

For one, I’ve always argued that the biggest coach-killers in the NHL aren’t the superstars at the top of the lineup, but goaltenders. The Wild’s starting goalie — Devan Dubnyk — had a pretty shocking run through November and early December that really put the team in a hole. He has been better since then and, not surprisingly, so have the Wild.

There is also the fact that the roster is kind of short on impact talent up front. It’s not that they’re bad players, but there really isn’t anyone that is a true game-breaker. Parise, Suter, Mikko Koivu and Staal are all age 34 or older. Players like Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker are good enough when they are on top of their game to be top-six players, but they’re not anybody that is going to strike fear into opponents. Mikael Granlund is probably the closest thing they have to such a player.

There is only so much a coach can do with that sort of roster up front. The roster needs some tweaks for sure, and it needs another impact player up front, but I do not see a reason to part ways with Boudreau at this point.

JOEY: I think it might be time for the Wild to go in a different direction. Don’t get me wrong, I think Boudreau is a good coach, but the on-ice results don’t lie. The Wild are clinging on to a wild card spot right now and they’ve been bounced in the first round of the playoffs in back-to-back years.

Let’s be honest, this core is getting old and the window is closing. Four of this team’s five leading scorers are 33 or older. Parise, Suter, Staal, and Koivu are all still productive, but this simply isn’t a team built to make a long run in the playoffs. Boudreau’s tried to lead this team to a championship and he’s come up short. That’s not necessarily just his fault, but that’s the way this business works.

Fenton took over in the Wild’s front office last May, which means he hasn’t had the opportunity to bring on his own coach. If the Wild fail to make the playoffs, or if they get in and get bounced early, you have to believe that Fenton will hand Boudreau his walking papers.

I just can’t see this group getting over the hump this year, so I’m going to go ahead and say that the Wild need to go in a different direction behind the bench.

SCOTT: Truthfully, this is a tough question to answer.

If you’re looking for coaches with experience coaching young talent — and you’re thinking about possibly blowing it all up and getting younger or even re-tooling on the fly — then who would be better than Boudreau?

Look, I understand if you want to go in another direction. A new GM will sometimes (perhaps often) want to bring in who he thinks is the best coach for the job. Fenton might have a guy in mind. That’s fair. That’s hockey. But when it comes to coaching, and understanding the game and what it takes to win at all levels (ECHL, American Hockey League and National Hockey League), it’s Bruce. From unsure rookies to rugged veterans, Boudreau has coached them all.

Boudreau has found success at every level he’s coached and entering Monday, had a .654 win percentage as a bench boss (.631 in Minny). There’s a reason why Boudreau owns the record for being the fastest coach hired after being fired. A lot of teams would give their first-born for a coaching record like that.

If Fenton decides he wants to re-tool the roster on the fly, then again, unless you can woo Quenneville to town, there’s not a better coach out there.

Boudreau makes every team he coaches a competitive one, regardless of the talent he’s given. Unless there’s a better option, it would be best to give Boudreau ingredients.

Alex Faust (play-by-play) and Jim Fox (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild need Eric Staal to be ‘the Eric Staal that he was in the past’

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On a day when hundreds of millions of dollars were committed to unrestricted free agents, the Eric Staal signing barely made a ripple in NHL waters.

The Minnesota Wild committed just $10.5 million over three years to Staal — an entirely reasonable sum considering it was July 1, a day when reason often goes flying out the window.

Just don’t take that to mean the Staal signing isn’t an important one for the Wild. Because, in fact, it’s a vitally important signing. The 31-year-old’s contract may not reflect it, but he was brought on to play a top-six role next season, possibly one that will see him centering Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle.

“He wanted the opportunity to be the Eric Staal that he was in the past,” head coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters. “And I told him he would definitely get that chance here.”

And he’ll get that chance because the Wild are thin at the center position. (Remember what Thomas Vanek said last year? “We don’t have maybe the strongest depth in the middle.”)

Signing Staal was a calculated risk by GM Chuck Fletcher. He could’ve gone harder after free agents Frans Nielsen or David Backes, but that would’ve been considerably more expensive, and those two are even older than Staal.

Another option would’ve been to trade for a center — perhaps somebody like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — but that would’ve cost the Wild a good, young defenseman like Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba.

And so he rolled the dice on Staal, hoping that the once-elite center can be elite, or at least in that neighborhood, again.

Certainly, Staal has to be better than he was for the Rangers, after New York got him at the trade deadline. He had just six points in 20 games, then no points in five playoff games.

“I still feel I can be a contributor in a very good team’s top six,” said Staal. “I’m going to get an opportunity on a team that’s hungry to win and hungry to be a top team. I’ve got to prove it.”

Related: With an aging core, the Wild could be Boudreau’s biggest challenge yet

Wild extend Zucker — two years, $4 million

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Despite a tough campaign, Jason Zucker has gotten a vote of confidence from Minnesota — and a nice raise to boot.

On Wednesday, the Wild inked Zucker to a two-year, $4 million extension, one that carries at $2M average annual cap hit. It’s a nice pay bump from the $900,250 he was making annually on his old deal, yet it comes after a season in what some considered to be a setback.

After scoring 21 goals in just 51 games two years ago, Zucker only found the back of the net 13 times. It was a tough season all-around. Zucker was made a healthy scratch by former head coach Mike Yeo, placed on IR with a concussion following a devastating hit from Michal Rozsival and, at the end of the year, got called out by interim bench boss John Torchetti.

“He has to have a way better year next year,” Torchetti said after the Wild’s season-ending loss to Dallas in the playoffs, per the Morning-News. “That’s the bottom line.”

It’s important to remember that Zucker is only 24 years old and, given his offensive abilities and skating prowess, could be a nice fit under new head coach Bruce Boudreau. There could be more opportunities at forward with the likes of Thomas Vanek, David Jones and Justin Fontaine either all gone or likely gone, though it still remains to be seen who GM Chuck Fletcher will bring in via free agency.

Another first: Barry Trotz wins Jack Adams for best coach of 2015-16

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After guiding the Washington Capitals to the 2016 Presidents’ Trophy, Barry Trotz won his first Jack Adams Award.

Trotz won over Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers and Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars.

No doubt about it, this has been a long-time coming for Trotz; it was also the third time he had been nominated for the Jack Adams.

The award was presented by Anders Holm of “Workaholics” fame. No, he wasn’t able to reference … anything from that show.

Here are the voting results and some history for the award, which honors a season’s best coach:

2015-2016 Jack Adams Award Voting

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd)
1. Barry Trotz, WSH 344 (58-16-6)
2. Gerard Gallant, FLA 203 (20-28-19)
3. Lindy Ruff, DAL 75 (1-16-22)
4. Bruce Boudreau, ANA 58 (3-10-13)
5. Mike Sullivan, PIT 35 (2-5-10)
6. Ken Hitchcock, STL 35 (1-7-9)
7. Peter DeBoer, SJS 16 (1-3-2)
8. Darryl Sutter, LAK 10 (1-1-2)
9. Dave Hakstol, PHI 10 (0-2-4)
10. John Hynes, NJD 6 (1-0-1)
11. Joel Quenneville, CHI 5 (1-0-0)
12. Peter Laviolette, NSH 4 (0-1-1)

Jack Adams Award Winners Since 1990

Year Winner Runner-up
2016 Barry Trotz, Wsh. Gerard Gallant, Fla.
2015 Bob Hartley, Cgy. Alain Vigneault, NYR
2014 Patrick Roy, Col. Mike Babcock, Det.
2013 Paul MacLean, Ott. Joel Quenneville, Chi.
2012 Ken Hitchcock, St.L. John Tortorella, NYR
2011 Dan Bylsma, Pit. Alain Vigneault, Van.
2010 Dave Tippett, Phx. Barry Trotz, Nsh.
2009 Claude Julien, Bos. Andy Murray, St.L
2008 Bruce Boudreau, Wsh. Guy Carbonneau, Mtl.
2007 Alain Vigneault, Van. Lindy Ruff, Buf.
2006 Lindy Ruff, Buf. Peter Laviolette, Car.
2004 John Tortorella, T.B. Ron Wilson, S.J.
2003 Jacques Lemaire, Min. John Tortorella, T.B.
2002 Bob Francis, Phx. Brian Sutter, Chi.
2001 Bill Barber, Phi. Scotty Bowman, Det.
2000 Joel Quenneville, St.L Alain Vigneault, Mtl.
1999 Jacques Martin, Ott. Pat Quinn, Tor.
1998 Pat Burns, Bos. Larry Robinson, L.A
1997 Ted Nolan, Buf. Ken Hitchcock, Dal.
1996 Scott Bowman, Det. Doug MacLean, Fla.
1995 Marc Crawford, Que. Scott Bowman, Det.
1994 Jacques Lemaire, N.J. Kevin Constantine, S.J.
1993 Pat Burns, Tor. Brian Sutter, Bos.
1992 Pat Quinn, Van. Roger Neilson, NYR
1991 Brian Sutter, St.L Tom Webster, L.A.
1990 Bob Murdoch, Wpg. Mike Milbury, Bos.

NHL releases schedule, here are five key takeaways

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Following yesterday’s home openers reveal, the NHL on Tuesday announced its full 1,230-game regular season schedule for the 2016-17 campaign.

Click here for full details

Five key takeaways from today’s announcement:

1. It’s condensed, and tightly-packed

September’s World Cup of Hockey will result in a later-than-usual start to the regular season, and the implementation of “bye weeks” — see more on those here — makes for some pretty compressed parts of the schedule.

2. The celebratory stuff

The Maple Leafs are celebrating their 100th season by hosting the first-ever NHL Centennial Classic, an outdoor game on Jan. 1 at BMO Field against the Red Wings.

Speaking of those Red Wings, they’ll be commemorating their final season at Joe Louis Arena with 18 home dates against Original Six opponents.

The Kings are celebrating their 50th anniversary by hosting the 2017 NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center, while the Blues are celebrating their 50th by hosting the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium against the Blackhawks.

The Penguins and Flyers are also heading into their respective 50th anniversary seasons, and will face off in a Stadium Series game at Heinz Field on Saturday, Feb. 25.

3. Noteworthy contests

— Stanley Cup Final rematch between the Penguins and Sharks will go on Thursday, Oct. 20 from Consol.

— The Heritage Classic between the Jets and Oilers, to be played outdoors at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, is on Sunday, Oct. 23.

— Edmonton’s first game at its new rink, Rogers Place, will be against provincial rival Calgary on opening night (Wednesday, Oct. 12).

— Detroit’s last-ever regular season game at the Joe will be against the Devils on Sunday, Apr. 9.

4. Dates and breaks

Opening night is Oct. 12, and the final day of the regular season is Apr. 9.

Christmas Break is from Dec. 24-26, and the All-Star Break is from Jan.27-30.

The trade deadline, per Cap Friendly, is Feb. 28 at 3 p.m. ET.

The league’s annual “Black Friday” showcase is loaded up, an 11-game slate including matinees between the Rangers-Flyers, Penguins-Wild, ‘Hawks-Ducks and Isles-Sharks.

5. Reunions

— New Minnesota head coach Bruce Boudreau returns to Anaheim for the first since being fired on Jan. 8, when the Wild take on the Ducks at Honda.

— Old Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo, now the Blues’ bench-boss-in-waiting, returns to Xcel for the first time since being fired on Nov. 26, when St. Louis takes on the Wild.

— Randy Carlyle goes back to Toronto on Monday, Dec. 19 when the Ducks take on the Leafs at the ACC.

Related: Penguins to raise Stanley Cup banner against Ovi and the Caps