The hardest thing about hiring a high-level coach, it seems, has very little to do with a résumé. If it did, we could compare 10 or 100 sheets of paper and know with confidence that a good, great, bad or terrible hire has been made.
Past accomplishments are meaningful, sure, but of greater importance is identifying how a particular coach’s style, skill set and culture will mesh with that of the team he or she is vying to lead.
With new Wild coach Bruce Boudreau (and new Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, for that matter), we know good things about winning percentages and reputations. What we have no clue about is whether Boudreau can get more out this Wild team than his predecessor, Mike Yeo (and whether Thibodeau is the right voice to lead the young Wolves from potential to the promised land).
Since humans are creatures who try to predict the future by studying the past — hey, it’s all we’ve got until time travel becomes reality, so we can’t really be blamed — we are inclined to look at the Wild’s hire of Boudreau and conclude that it’s a good choice because it is the opposite of the Yeo hire.
He’s experienced and accomplished whereas Yeo was getting his first shot. Boudreau carries a reputation for running an up-tempo, aggressive system while Yeo’s teams were more cautious and often struggled to score.
If we’re being completely honest, though, there are these things to wonder about:
• In retrospect, would a coach like Boudreau have been a better fit four years ago — a year after Yeo was hired, when the Wild made a bold push forward by signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter — than he is now?
That is to say, do you have more confidence that the Wild’s window for winning a championship was wider in the past four years than it will be in the next four based on roster construction — including the fact that Parise and Suter will both be 32 by the middle of next season?
If you’re a Wild fan who believes the past rosters had more talent than the future rosters will, you might lament this hire as too little, too late — even as you celebrate it as an overall good choice and even as you acknowledge the past four years were still full of accomplishments under Yeo.
• Is the Wild, with much of its core comprised of players either in their early-to-mid-20s or early 30s, even capable of finding one voice who can unify both factions of the locker room and a “generational difference” that GM Chuck Fletcher acknowledged exists in the room (while downplaying its significance) while discussing the team a couple weeks back?
• How meaningful is it that Boudreau, while working the past four years with what has to be considered a more talented roster in Anaheim, won just one more playoff series during that span (three) than Yeo did (two) with the Wild?
Again, these are just questions. Many of them fall between the lines on a résumé that would list winning percentage and other such things. One can say with confidence Boudreau was objectively a good hire. What can’t yet be said is that he was the right fit at the right moment.
Only time can tell us that.