Russo's Rants Logo

Blog

Russo's Rants

Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Wild replacing assistants Wilson, Sydor; Brunette moving to front office

There will be two new assistant coaches on either side of recently-hired head coach Bruce Boudreau next season, the Star Tribune has learned.

Longtime Wild assistants Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor have been informed they won’t be returning to the bench, multiple sources have said. Both coaches have contracts that expire June 30. It’s unclear as of now if they could potentially stay with the organization in other roles.

In addition, assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, the Wild’s eye in the sky during games, and goalie coach Bob Mason will sign new contracts and return to the club in their same roles.

Assistant coach Andrew Brunette, who has a year remaining on his contract, is expected to rejoin the front office. Brunette, who played six seasons for the Wild over two stints, was originally hired by General Manager Chuck Fletcher as a hockey operations advisor before former coach Mike Yeo asked him to be an assistant the past two seasons.

He was largely responsible for the power play.

Former interim coach John Torchetti, who has another year left on his contract as coach of the Iowa Wild, is a candidate for assistant coaching positions with the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings. He has been granted permission to pursue other jobs. If he doesn’t get one, Torchetti and Fletcher are expected to speak again regarding a job within the Wild.

Wilson and Sydor are both respected coaches, especially with young D, and great guys. Sydor, especially, was always an awesome interview for us writers. Personally, I learned a lot about the position during my many talks with Wilson and Sydor.

Wilson, 65, spent six years as a Wild assistant. He came to Minnesota before Todd Richards’ second and final season as coach and was carried over onto Yeo’s bench. He has been a NHL assistant or associate coach for five franchises since 1988 (including the North Stars during their final season in 1992-93) and won a Stanley Cup in 1999 with Dallas.

Sydor, 44, spent five years as a Wild assistant. He came to Minnesota along with Yeo after the two coached the Houston Aeros to the 2011 Calder Cup Final. Sydor, drafted seventh overall in 1990 by the Los Angeles Kings, played 18 seasons in the NHL, ranks 18th all-time among defensemen with 1,291 regular-season games and won two Stanley Cups.

Fletcher had said previously that he had different ideas regarding the makeup of the coaching staff, but Boudreau would be given “free rein” when it came to his chief lieutenants.

Over the last two years in Anaheim, Boudreau’s assistants – Bob Woods and Brad Lauer -- were let go by GM Bob Murray.

I asked Boudreau on Thursday if he felt his legs were cut out from under him because of that.

Boudreau said, “I don’t think it’s the best thing. But, I mean, the guys that Bob Murray selected were really intelligent, good hockey people, so it made it easy. But you always like to think you know the person that you’re standing beside.”

That last line was the key line, obviously. Boudreau wants to know the guys to his left and right.

Because of that, there are two names that come to my mind that Boudreau may have interest in.

This is pure conjecture:

One is Woods, his longtime right-hand man in Hershey, Washington and Anaheim. He currently is the Saskatoon Blades GM and coach. The other is good friend and very successful minor-league coach John Anderson. He used to coach the Atlanta Thrashers and is currently on a second stint coaching the AHL Chicago Wolves.

On how he conducts a bench, Boudreau, who calls the forwards, told me, “Usually in the past, one guy runs the defense, there’s myself and another guy to my left ends up usually running the power play while at the same time talking to players as they come back to the bench because I can’t focus on telling them what to do while also trying to match lines and get ready for the next shift.”

Boudreau in town for round of meetings, including with Parise, Suter

Bruce Boudreau, a power lefty from Toronto, looked like he could be inserted into the Twins’ rotation tonight after hurling a sneaky curveball that even fooled Twins manager Paul Molitor.

“There was a little stuff on it,” the recently-named Wild coach cracked as he licked two fingers on his throwing hand.

Boudreau, wearing a Twins No. 16 jersey, threw out the first pitch before tonight’s game against his hometown Blue Jays.

He was visibly freaking out as he warmed up in front of the Twins’ dugout. The former outfielder hadn’t thrown a baseball since throwing out the first pitch once before a Washington Nationals game.

“It was more nerve racking than coaching a Game 7,” Boudreau said, not kidding. “When you get out there and you’re walking, the mound looks so far away. I just wanted to get it across the plate. I just didn’t want to bounce it in. I got lucky because I threw it before I started thinking.”

Boudreau, a former junior star in Toronto, was also apparently one heck of a baseball player.

“I used to be really thin,” he said, laughing. “I could run and I could throw.”

In 1973, Boudreau says the Pittsburgh Pirates actually offered him a chance to go down to Florida and play “A Ball” for the summer.

“Back in the day, what you did is play hockey ‘til April and put your stuff down and pick up your glove and you played baseball all summer,” Boudreau said. “I was pretty good, I thought. Pittsburgh offered me a deal, but we just won the Memorial Cup in junior and I said, ‘I’m going to be a hockey player.’ I’ve so many times regretted it. What a summer that would have been even if I was going to be a hockey player. So it’s just a good story because it never panned out.”

Boudreau was ecstatic to meet Molitor, the 1993 World Series MVP for the Blue Jays. Boudreau grew up a Yankees fans but quickly changed allegiances when Toronto got a MLB team.

“I went to as many games as I could,” he said. “Dave Stieb was my hero when I was with the Leafs. You meet some of these guys and you’re just in awe. They’re baseball players. You don’t think of yourself as anything when growing up in the city. But the Dave Stiebs and Paul Molitors of the world, pretty cool.

“That World Series team, they were so strong. They had 50,000 people all the time. They drew 4 million people that year. It was a hopping baseball market.”

Boudreau arrived back in Minnesota on Wednesday and had his first set of meetings today down at Wild headquarters. These are the pro meetings as the Wild sets the table for the summer now that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr are back in town from a retreat to the Bahamas at owner Craig Leipold’s home.

They’ll meet again Friday. “Today was learning the lay of the land,” said Boudreau, who also got his laptop set up so he can start digging into Wild video.

Also Friday, Boudreau, who has already had one brief conversation with Zach Parise, will meet face to face with Parise and Ryan Suter. He said he’s waiting until after the world championships to call captain Mikko Koivu.

“I don’t want to interfere with that,” Boudreau said.

Boudreau also said he will discuss the coaching staff with Fletcher on Friday. Right now, the assistants are in limbo and Fletcher said at the Boudreau news conference that he wants to let them know as soon as possible if they won’t be part of the upcoming staff so they have chances to get other jobs.

That staff includes assistants Rick Wilson, Darryl Sydor, Darby Hendrickson and Andrew Brunette and goalie coach Bob Mason.

Over the last two years in Anaheim, Boudreau’s assistants were let go by GM Bob Murray.

Asked if he felt his legs were cut out from under him, Boudreau said, “I don’t think it’s the best thing. But, I mean, the guys that Bob Murray selected were really intelligent, good hockey people, so it made it easy. But you always like to think you know the person that you’re standing beside.”

Fletcher has said he will talk to Boudreau about his vision for a coaching staff and see if it aligns with Boudreau’s vision. But Fletcher has also indicated that Boudreau will have “free rein” to pick his staff.

Boudreau said, “Usually in the past, one guy runs the defense, there’s myself and another guy to my left ends up usually running the power play while at the same time talking to players as they come back to the bench because I can’t focus on telling them what to do while also trying to match lines and get ready for the next shift.”

Boudreau calls the forwards and there will be an eye in the sky. The past few years, the Wild atypically had three assistants on the bench, something that will almost surely change under Boudreau.

What’s next?

Boudreau will return to southern California this weekend and hop in the car for a 2 1/2 –day drive to his offseason home in Hershey, Pa.

One problem: One of the Hershey Bears players is renting his home, “so I keep waiting for them to lose and they’re in the conference finals. I keep texting the coach saying, ‘Hurry up and lose so I can get home,’” Boudreau said, kiddingly.

Boudreau said he knows folks with HERCO, so he plans to live in the Hershey Lodge for the time being. In the meantime, his wife has been online looking for homes in Minnesota. They hope to purchase one by the July development camp and move here officially in early August.

“Quite frankly, once you get into the office, your blood starts boiling,” Boudreau said. “Once I start watching games, I’ll want to be here all the time. But right now, moving cross country and uprooting a lot of people and things, there’s a lot on my plate for a little while. But I’ll be back again soon.”

That’s it for now. If you didn’t hear my latest podcast with Jim Souhan, here it is. It's a fun one.