In light of the ugly Mike Wise incident that happened Tuesday, if the Caps win the Cup this year, there will be no one person in this organization I will be happier for than one Bruce Boudreau.
I don’t think anyone in this organization takes more unjustified heat than Boudreau does. He’s got
failed coaches analysts and columnists publicly saying that if he doesn't win this round or make the East finals he's going to get the pink slip. He had some people on CI screaming that the Caps should hire Mike Keenan back in December because the team “needed” some sort of mythical “ass kicker” to make them play better. Mike Keenan!
Brooks Laich referred to Boudreau as a "genius" not too long ago, and as the season has worn on, I’ve found myself agreeing more and more with that statement. He took a team that had one of the most prolific offensive seasons in the entire history of the league last season, set all sorts of records on that end of the puck, and completely flipped it around. Last year’s team scored 318 and gave up 233. This year’s team scored 224 and gave up 197. Bruce took a lot of heat last year for “not adjusting” to what Montreal was doing in the series, but I look at this entire season as one big “adjustment”.
Most coaches will (understandably) play to a team’s strength. If my team is good at scoring goals, I’m going to go out of my way to try and impose my will on the other guys and express what my team does best. But Boudreau went completely the other way and built a team with a defense-first mindset that wasn’t going to be pretty, but would pride itself on preventing goals. That’s an unbelievable job of coaching. And on top of that, he did that with a team much younger than last year’s; one that employed three goaltenders under 25, a 2C that for much of the year was still a teenager, and Tyler Sloan.
I think the thoughts of some fans on Boudreau are disproportionately manifested by his appearance. To paraphrase the line often directed toward Ralph Friedgen, he doesn’t “look” like a hockey coach. He is regularly cast as the “jovial buffoon” in local commercials, which play on his perceived lack of intelligence. He doesn’t have Mike Keenan’s steely-eyed gaze, or Guy Boucher’s cool scar, or Roger Neilson’s perm. While some of this is Boudreau’s fault (much the same thing happened to Terry Bradshaw, who hated having his intelligence questioned, and then once he retired, put on his hillbilly clown shoes), it’s some pretty heavy stuff to completely throw away any intelligence the guy might have because he laughs a lot and enjoys Häagen-Dazs.
But here’s a guy who has seen and done it all in this game over 30 years. I’m pretty sure he’s got a handle on what he needs to do. There is no one in this league I’d rather have coaching my team than Bruce Boudreau, and I think there are very few capable of executing what he did this season.