Way back in the preseason, I wrote an article examining the impact of a new head coach to a hockey team. The bottom line was that teams improved by nearly 6 standings points on average, but Boudreau’s first two clubs improved by an outlandish 23.5 points on average. The Wild, of course, saw a massive jump in their own standings numbers compared to the previous season, jumping from 87 to 106 points. If it hadn’t been for the disastrous slump in March, the Wild likely would have reached, if not surpassed, the 20 point improvement mark. As it is, an increase of 19 points was a welcome sign that Chuck Fletcher found the best man available when he hired Boudreau.
Some other numbers that show the stark change in the Wild’s performance from last season to the inaugural season under Boudreau:
- The Wild scored 50 more goals this season than last; this saw them go from 19th to 2nd in the league.
- The Wild’s power play percentage improved from 18.53% to 20.98%. Although the Wild actually scored one fewer power play goal this season than last, they had 35 fewer opportunities (incidentally, the Wild had the second lowest number of power play opportunities this season).
- The Wild’s penalty kill, which had been a feather in the cap of Mike Yeo’s club, was terrible last year at 77.94%. This year, under Boudreau and his staff, the Wild improved to 82.95%. This resulted in the Wild allowing eight fewer power play goals despite being on the kill 13 times more times this season.
- The Wild had three skaters score higher this season that last season’s leading scorer (and one who tied that mark this season).
- The Wild had two skaters score more goals than last season’s leading goal scorer (and again, one skater this season tied last season’s leading goal total).
- Ryan Suter’s average time on ice decreased from 28:36 per game to 26:55 per game.
There may be a temptation to dismiss all of this with a wave of the hand and claiming that “nothing matters but the post-season”. To a degree, sure, it doesn’t matter how well you played during the regular season so long as you make it to the playoffs. Ultimately, every team is looking to take home the Cup. But it would be shortsighted to see how this team performed under Boudreau and not be encouraged. This team was a legitimate contender this year that ran into a hot team and a hot goalie. The pieces are there for this team to contend next season as well. Boudreau, and his staff, are a big reason for that.
Statistics courtesy of www.hockeyreference.com