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Looking back at Bruce Boudreau’s best moments with the Wild

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There were some good times with Bruce Boudreau at the helm.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In the summer of 2016, just eight days after being fired from the Anaheim Ducks, Bruce Boudreau became the fifth head coach of the Minnesota Wild.

His tenure didn’t last the longest, only coaching the team for only a little over three and a half years. His dismissal seemed to have come out of nowhere, but most, including Boudreau, figured new General Manager Bill Guerin would likely want “his own guy” behind the bench next season. With his dismissal, Boudreau left Minnesota holding the highest win percentage of any Wild head coach ever (.579). In 303 games coached behind the Minnesota bench, Boudreau and the Wild went 158-110-35.

The beginning of the relationship between the Wild and Boudreau started off strong. Boudreau’s first two seasons in St. Paul were great, taking a team that was second in the Wild Card and worst playoff team since the new system was incorporated with 87 points to the fifth best regular season team in the NHL his first year at the helm.

In Boudreau’s first season as the bench boss in Minnesota (2016-17), the team finished 49-25-8, good enough for fifth in the NHL in points. The Wild ended the regular season with the second-most regulation wins (42) and a franchise record of 49 wins. Under Boudreau, the team scored the second most goals collectively as a team in the league, netting 263 goals and only trailing the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who scored 278 goals. Even though the team scored plenty of goals during Boudreau’s first season, the Wild allowed the seventh least goals during the campaign as well.

All around, Minnesota had a fantastic regular season. Special teams were both in the top 10 in the NHL, finishing the 2016-17 season ranking as the ninth best power play and the eighth best penalty kill. Under Boudreau, the team achieved two more franchise records, earning the longest winning streak in franchise history (12 games) and highest goal differential (+58). The Wild finished second in the Central Division, but ultimately lost to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs in five games. Nevertheless, in his first year as head coach, Boudreau took the Wild from bubble playoff team to a true Stanley Cup contender.

Boudreau and Minnesota followed up the 106-point campaign with another 100-point campaign the following season. In 2017-18, the Wild finished eighth in the NHL, going 45-26-11 to earn 101 points. This season wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, however, as the team dealt with numerous major injuries, including ailments to Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle, who were all out for a good portion of the season. Keeping this in mind, Boudreau did an incredible job with the team and it was good enough to finish the regular season at third in the Central Division.

Boudreau affected more than just the points in the standings and its special teams play. During his tenure behind the bench, he had a big impact on many of the players in the Wild’s organization. In particular, three players benefitted the most under Bruce Boudreau — Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal and Marcus Foligno.

Granlund broke out the same year Boudreau took over. A player once selected ninth overall in the draft, Granlund still had yet to find much success in the NHL. The Wild brass had high expectations for the Finnish standout, hoping he would become a star in the league. But prior to Boudreau coming to Minnesota, Granlund’s career-highs weren’t all that impressive — just 13 goals and 44 points. Granlund found himself being juggled between a center and a wing prior to Boudreau coming aboard. In his first season under Boudreau though, Granlund smashed his previous career numbers by putting up 26 goals and 43 assists for a very nice 69 points, playing most of the year on the wing. This high level of play continued under Boudreau’s guidance until the Finn was dealt by former GM Paul Fenton for Kevin Fiala.

Another player that thrived under Bruce Boudreau was veteran center Eric Staal. His resurgence due to a change of scenery sparked a 28-goal, 65-point season, sharing the same first year in the Wild organization as Boudreau. Together, they started new paths in their careers, and it seemed to work out for both in the beginning. Staal was given the top-line center role in Minnesota, and he thrived in it. Under Boudreau, Staal regained the star status he once had playing in Carolina. He benefitted greatly from Boudreau’s coaching style and ultimately turned his career around, adding on to his legacy and sparking the conversation of whether he has a resume for the Hall of Fame when he retires.

In spite of not putting up crazy numbers statistically, Wild forward Marcus Foligno took a lot of strides in his career during Boudreau’s tenure in Minnesota after coming to the Wild via trade in the offseason of 2017. But as good coaches often do, Boudreau found a role that suited Foligno. Keeping him in a bottom-six role, Boudreau had Foligno focus on the defensive side of his game during the 2018 offseason, which led to a promotion of sorts as Foligno earned additional ice time on the penalty kill. In doing so, the Wild’s penalty kill went from one of the worst in 2017-18 to finishing seventh in the league in 2018-19, largely due to Boudreau’s decision to promote Foligno to the penalty kill. Minnesota’s big man thrived in the role and even earned some Selke Trophy votes at the end of the year, finishing 24th in the voting.

Sadly, the first two seasons were the high points of Boudreau’s tenure in Minnesota. During the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns, both teams finished the regular season with over 100 points — only two other times in franchise history has the team hit the century mark in points earned (2006-07 and 2014-15). Unfortunately for Boudreau, the team and its fans, the high points of the past four seasons have all come during the regular season. The regular season success never translated to the postseason, which wound up playing a big role in Boudreau’s dismissal.