Bruce Boudreau's career returned to the exact spot it started.
The new Wild coach arrived at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday for his introductory news conference and sat at center ice in the building that replaced the old St. Paul Civic Center, where he made his professional debut for the Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1975.
One week after first interviewing for the job, Boudreau signed a four-year, $10.5 million contract (plus playoff bonuses). He got a first glimpse at his new office, toured his new locker room and met his new trainers and staffers. Wild players Erik Haula, Mike Reilly and Justin Fontaine attended the news conference and already, Boudreau joked, began campaigning for ice time. And Boudreau reunited and posed for pictures with former teammates Henry Boucha, Pat Westrum and Ted Hampson while holding a royal blue, white and gold Fighting Saints jersey.
"I told my wife [Crystal], 'This is the last place I'm going,'" said the 61-year-old Boudreau, who coached the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks to eight division titles in nine years and is the fastest coach in NHL history to eclipse 400 victories. "I told my wife I'm going to stay here for as long as they want me, and I hope it's a long time.
"Hopefully I can help in some form bring a Stanley Cup to this state and to this city, or these two cities."
As far as coaching searches go, this was a speedy one. General Manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr interviewed now-ex interim coach John Torchetti on Monday of last week, Boudreau on Tuesday and Randy Carlyle on Thursday.
All roads led back to Boudreau, and that was reciprocal on Boudreau's end. The Wild made a contract offer Friday night after Boudreau completed his interview with the Ottawa Senators. At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Fletcher began negotiating with Boudreau's agent, Gil Scott.
By 1 p.m., the deal was done. It came together so quickly, Fletcher cooked brunch and did some lawn work in between.
"His teams play fast, they score, they win and they're entertaining," Fletcher said. "[I think our players] need a different push, they need a different voice, and Bruce's experience, as long as his tremendous passion for the game and his hockey IQ, will allow him to push this group to heights they haven't been to yet."
GM plans moves
The next step is upgrading the personnel. That could come via free agency, although Fletcher has said bluntly that he probably needs to make a trade or two this summer to "change the mix."
Boudreau will be part of that process. He will return to California late Wednesday, begin the process of moving back to his offseason home in Hershey, Pa., and then return next week for pro scouting meetings.
"Hopefully this is the first move in a busy and exciting and productive summer for us," Fletcher said. Once back in town, Boudreau — actually Crystal Boudreau — will begin looking for a new home.
"She's totally in charge of finding a place to live because she won't let me help," Boudreau quipped.
He will start reaching out to players such as captain Mikko Koivu, leading goal scorer Zach Parise and No. 1 defenseman Ryan Suter.
"I'm really excited to have him coaching us," Parise said in the middle of doing therapy Tuesday on a season-ending back injury that has improved vastly.
Boudreau also planned to begin the "meat and potatoes" of putting together a coaching staff during talks with Fletcher. It's likely that Boudreau will want his longtime right-hand man, Bob Woods, who is the GM and coach for the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades, on his staff.
Video coach Jonas Plumb worked with Boudreau in Washington. The rest of the staff — assistants Rick Wilson, Darryl Sydor, Darby Hendrickson and Andrew Brunette and goalie coach Bob Mason — is in limbo. Fletcher wants to decide quickly so if they're not retained, they have time to latch onto other leaguewide jobs.
"I have some ideas, and I'm sure he has some ideas, and we'll discuss them in terms of the makeup of the staff," Fletcher said. "I think it's really important that we surround the head coach with the right assistants to make the staff as successful as possible."
Torchetti is unlikely to join as an assistant. Fletcher said it was a "hard" conversation with Torchetti and he was disappointed not to have landed the full-time job. It's believed Torchetti has one year left on his contract to coach AHL Iowa, but it's premature to know if he'll return there.
"He's assessing his options right now," Fletcher said. "If he wants to remain in the organization, I'd love to have him."
After hiring Todd Richards and Mike Yeo as first-time coaches, Fletcher conceded it was time to go the experience route. Boudreau will command respect immediately, Fletcher said.
"You don't get that many opportunities to get a coach with his track record, with his résumé, with his communication skills, and with our team, he'll have instant credibility with our players," Fletcher said.
Boudreau is excited to get started. The Wild doesn't have the star power Boudreau had in Washington and Anaheim. He doesn't seem worried.
"You don't need, as much as I like Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, you don't need those guys to survive or to win," Boudreau said. "I think we can do it the old-fashioned way, which is, you work as a team and you have 20 guys playing.
"It's a cliché, but it's the thing that always works."