Bruce Boudreau was formally introduced to the media and fan base today as the fifth head coach of the Minnesota Wild. A veritable assembly of the top names in Twin Cities media were allowed to pepper the new coach with a full range of questions after a very short opening statement from the new bench boss. Questions ranged from systems and player deployment to convincing his family to move from southern California to the cold Minnesota winters. But a few themes emerged, and a plan for change can already be seen to be taking shape as Boudreau truly begins the onboarding process with his new franchise.
"It's a complete honor for me to be able to come here and coach in the State of Hockey," said Boudreau at the top of the press conference. In summing up his decision to come here he continued, "The Central Division is the toughest division. It's a great challenge. ... Everything pointed in this direction." He also worked to sell the gathered crowd on his resume, going over his vast coaching experience in the AHL prior to jumping to the NHL. General Manager Chuck Fletcher joked that Boudreau had probably coached in more locations than Fletcher had ever traveled to. To Boudreau, that ultimately means, "there's not a situation that can come up that I haven't already faced. I've gone through the trials and tribulations." Which should be music to the ears of the local fanbase, which has been clamoring for a veteran coach's experience to propel the team beyond it's current high-benchmark of the second round of the playoffs.
But beyond that, Boudreau offered a deeper glimpse into how he might go about forging this team into the best version of itself. Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan asked a couple of the more pointed questions of the afternoon, but a two-part question regarding Ryan Suter seems to have delved the farthest into the mind of the coach. Souhan asked Boudreau how he felt about the veteran defender's ice time approaching the 30 minute mark and related it to his role on the power play. Boudreau opened up with the expected answer of having to talk to the player first and see how he felt about it. But he then went on to make a pretty direct statement saying he rarely has a player average over 25 minutes on the ice in a game. He continued to answer the second part of the question by describing his vision of the power play. "You've got to have two units," Boudreau began, "that way when one unit isn't going the other unit can get going." He went on to say that no matter which unit a player was on, their role was important, but also insinuated that a single player shouldn't be on both units.
When reading between the lines of how Boudreau answered this question, it was easy to see that Boudreau had already considered both of Souhan's points with regards to Suter. He had an idea of the max ice time he envisions for his players, and is slyly aware of how Suter has been deployed on special teams. He met this challenge by showing he intends to meet these issues head on, while also working to get the players to buy in to the value of his coaching style. "My job is to find the Achilles heel of every player and to push that button to make them play to the best of their ability," said Boudreau.
Whether or not this was addressed in his conversations with Chuck Fletcher prior to the press conference we will never know, but meeting the issue directly and not being able to publicly state his opinion on the matter before talking to the player is a departure from what has transpired in the past and will be a huge part of how Boudreau is able to capture and unite the team behind him. This is precisely the type of response that should have come from a coach taking over a team that gives off the impression that the inmates run the asylum, and is an immensely positive signal for the future of the team. Suter and Zach Parise were also missing from the press conference, while Erik Haula, Mike Reilly and Justin Fontaine were in attendance, but it's hard to tell if there is anything more to be said of the absence of the alternate captains.
Other tidbits discussed in the scrum were that meetings with assistant coaches are to begin tomorrow morning so that each coach will be notified as soon as possible about their future with the franchise. This will give them as much opportunity to pursue other positions if they are not retained. Fletcher has had a few conversations with John Torchetti, who is disappointed to not carry on as the head coach, but is still discussing a few opportunities to remain with the organization. We will know more on Torchetti and the other coaches futures over the next several days. Fletcher and Boudreau also both expressed separately that they feel like they will work well together to forge the future of the team and their statements today showed some synergy between the two. Fletcher also stated that Boudreau's hiring is "hopefully this is the first move in a busy and exciting summer for us."