What About Bruce?

After last night’s Hershey victory in Game 1 of the East Division semifinal series with the Albany River Rats, Bears coach Bruce Boudreau was asked whether he was surprised that center Dave Steckel hadn’t seen more NHL action to date in his career. It’s a legitimate question; there are many of us who believe Steckel belongs in the NHL.

Here’s another question. What about Boudreau? Doesn’t he belong in the NHL, too? I think so.

Boudreau has been in the coaching racket for the better part of two decades now, and the guy just wins everywhere he goes. Here’s a look at his head coaching résumé:

28-27-5-0 in one season in the Colonial Hockey League.

56-30-0-14 in the IHL, with one appearance in the finals in his two seasons.

109-75-26-0 in the ECHL, with one Kelly Cup championship in his three seasons.

332-209-49-48 in the AHL, with one Calder Cup championship and the possiblity of another in eight seasons.

That’s 525-341-80-62 in 1,008 games, according to the figures on hockeydb.com. Two championships.

Throw in the playing career and you’re talking about 2,500 games spread over three decades. More miles than money, more buses than bucks.

Look around the NHL. How many current head coaches in the league won Calder Cup championships before they were promoted to The Show? More than you’d think: Philadelphia’s John Stevens, Calgary’s Jim Playfair, Carolina’s Peter Laviolette, Atlanta’s Bob Hartley, Tampa Bay’s John Tortorella and Nashville’s Barry Trotz. That’s 20 percent of all the coaches in the NHL. It’s probably worth noting that half those guys (Laviolette, Hartley and Tortorella) have also won the Stanley Cup.

All six of those guys are younger than Boudreau, who is 52.

Playoffs are all about adjusting. With his team down a goal in the series opener last night, Boudreau challenged a few of his players to step up, and tweaked his lines a bit. Hershey came out flying. The Bears outshot the Rats 20-2 in the third period, and erased a 2-1 deficit to win the game. Boudreau has a finger on the pulse of his team, knows where the buttons are, and knows when and how to push them. Boudreau doesn’t go around talking about the books he’s read or spouting philosophy, war theory or some of that high-brow stuff you’ll get from some coaches. But he’s smart. Hockey smart. And sly like fox. Isn’t that what you want from a coach?

So yeah, Steckel belongs in the NHL. But so does Boudreau. And another lengthy playoff run might just lift him up where he belongs.

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8 Comments on “What About Bruce?”

  1. odessa steps Says:

    It seems that there’s an angry segment of Caps Nation (not that I am one of those, mind you) that would like to see Bruce behind the bench at the phone booth.

  2. dumpnchase Says:

    Odessa,
    I think “angry” and “Caps Nation” might be redundant. The team could win the President’s Trophy, sweep its way through four playoff series to take the Cup, and the message boards would be full of vitriol directed at the team for the poorly planned parade route.

    There are 30 head coaching jobs in the league, and I’m just saying Boudreau merits consideration for one of them.

  3. Josh Says:

    He may merit consideration, but how much success has he really had at the AHL level without the rediculous Caps prospect pool the past two years? I’m not saying he was a bad coach before, but the numbers indicate he was slightly above average, not great. Last year he was basically handed a tremendous amount of depth and talent, but I’m not convinced he’s done a great job developing them since all of them except Fehr seem to look like a deer in the headlights when they’re called up to the NHL. Also, I don’t think the leap from AHL coach to NHL head coach would be a good one. He should get an assistant coaching job for a couple years first, since the game really is a different animal at the NHL level, see Bruce Cassidy.


  4. Therrien in Pittsburgh, too, reminds us of the feats that A head guys can achieve when moved up. And fast. Indisputably he inherited a royal mess made by Eddie O there, and in 15 months fashioned a formidible outfit of our archenemy. Their collective youth, highly skilled as it is, further speaks to his abilities, I think.

    I also think that there’s an intangible quality to a terrific coach. I was around Boudreau a fair bit one weekend earlier this season, and while as an outsider I was unable to specify and tally all of his individual strengths, at every turn in hotels and locker rooms and arena stands he was in complete control of his environs — he just exuded a General’s command. I wish I had a more persuasive and lucid reckoning of this aura I felt being around him. But it was palpable. And the faithful in Manchester, NH, then — to raise his name among them was to evoke almost his departure by death. He’s revered there. Another thought: the A is at times a trainning/dumping ground for former big league players to cut their coaching teeth, and the mismatch between Boudreau and these fellas is at times comical. I’m not suggesting that Kevin Dineen won’t one day be a terrific coach, but in a playoff series, for instance, the distinction between a Boudrau and a Dineen is astounding.

  5. dumpnchase Says:

    Josh,
    What did Bruce Cassidy win in the AHL, besides a coach of the year award? And why isn’t he coaching in the AHL now? Apples and oranges, that one.

    Eric Belanger, Eric Brewer, Roberto Luongo, Andreas Lilja, Joe Corvo, Adam Mair, Jerred Smithson, Randy Robitaille, George Parros, Cristobal Huet, Tim Gleason, Mike Cammalleri, Dustin Brown, Boyd Gordon.

    Those are some of the players who played for Boudreau at the AHL level who are now NHL regulars. There are others, but you get the idea. Don’t forget, last year’s Calder Cup team didn’t even win its division, so I’m not sure where you get the idea that there was “a tremendous amount of depth and talent.” There certainly wasn’t a lot of depth (there is this year), when defensemen started dropping in the postseason they had to dip into the ECHL for replacements. And they still won.

    And if you think Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich look like “deer in the headlights,” well, we’re not going to get far with this discussion. r

  6. Robert Says:

    What kind of flash game is this?


  7. […] thrilled for Bruce Boudreau (a guy who earned and deserved the chance he finally got this year) and his coaching staff of Dave Prior, Jay Leach, Dean Evason and Blaine Forsythe, a good bunch of […]


  8. […] it or not, it was a mere three years ago at this time that some of us were calling for Boudreau to get as much as a sniff at …. Now, in his 2.75 seasons as the Washington bench boss, Boudreau has fashioned a 141-56-28 record. […]


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