Almost four months after firing Mike Yeo, the Minnesota Wild have finally landed his successor. On Saturday night, Kevin Weekes of the NHL Network broke the news that Bruce Boudreau would become the 4th head coach in Wild history, which TSN's Darren Dreger confirmed. Terms are unofficial, but Elliotte Friedman is as reliable as they come.
Boudreau contract in MIN expected to be four years, just under $3M per. That was the step-up from the Wild in the last 24 hours.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 8, 2016
Boudreau, who formerly coached the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, was widely considered to be the top coach currently on the market, and his regular season success can not be denied. In Boudreau's 9 seasons as a head coach, his teams have won their division a staggering 8 times. That includes the previous season, where Boudreau overcame an extremely poor start in Anaheim to win a top-heavy Pacific Division. It's only because of four consecutive Game 7 losses for the Ducks that he even became available to the Wild. Desperate for an established coach to right the ship after a disappointing season, Boudreau's sudden availability was a god-send for the Wild.
For General Manager Chuck Fletcher, this hiring is a departure from what he's normally hired as a coach. His first two hires were Todd Richards and Yeo, two rookie head coaches. After Richards fizzled almost immediately and Yeo gradually lost his locker room, it was clear that Fletcher (and owner Craig Leipold) were looking to add an experienced bench boss this time around. This is perhaps why the Wild were willing to spend more than a team like Ottawa for his services- without the option of a first-time coach to circle back to, their fallback options were guys like Randy Carlyle and Marc Crawford, who both completely flamed out in their last gigs.
This hiring also ends the tenure of John Torchetti as interim head coach. Torchetti piloted the Wild as they rebounded from a streak of 13 losses in 14 games to make the playoffs, but ultimately, the need for an experienced coach and Boudreau's availability won out. It's unknown if he will return to his post as the coach of Minnesota's AHL affiliate, become an assistant coach with the Wild, or move on to another organization.
Boudreau brings a few things to the table that are attractive to Minnesota. While he won the Pacific Division by way of suffocating defense last season in Anaheim, Boudreau is known for an offensive coaching style, which is ideal for a team that already has a very solid defensive foundation from the Mike Yeo era. Boudreau has extensive experience in bringing along young players, which should be helpful for a young core that often stagnated under Yeo's guidance. Boudreau's consistency with his previous stops also had to be appealing.
Boudreau's hiring doesn't fix all the problems with the Wild. Minnesota still has limited cap room thanks to heavy cap hits for Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, and Boudreau has an uphill battle to fix a locker room that is widely considered to be fractured between the Wild's veteran and youth. That said, if anyone on the market has the ability- and perhaps more importantly, the credibility as an NHL bench boss- to step in and make the best of these issues, it's Boudreau. This is perhaps the biggest free agent signing for the franchise since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and his addition should immediately raise optimism and expectations for next season.
More information and analysis to come. Hockey Wilderness will keep you updated as it becomes available.