One year after coming to the Wild as Bruce Boudreau’s top assistant, Scott Stevens has stepped down, citing family reasons.
The Hall of Fame defenseman, former Devils captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion has a primary home in New Jersey and his wife and two children back in the New York/New Jersey area.
“I just want to be closer,” he said. “That’s the toughest part of this job — moving away from your house and being away from family. I need them and they need me. When you’ve been in one spot for a long time, it’s a little tougher than you think to just get up and move. But I had nothing but a great experience in Minnesota.”
Stevens, 53, informed Boudreau of his decision before the team’s hockey operations meetings last week.
“I said, ‘Is it something we did?’ He said, ‘Nope, nope, nope,’ that the best thing for his family was for him to move home,” Boudreau said. “We gave each other a hug. He’s going to be very difficult to replace, but I respect him so much and respect what he wants to do.”
Boudreau has not begun a search for Stevens’ replacement. One option, he said, is to move second assistant John Anderson into the top role and hire another assistant or “hire somebody that I know or feel real comfortable with as the top guy.”
Bob Woods, a longtime Boudreau confidant from their days in Hershey, Washington and Anaheim, could be an option. He’s a Buffalo assistant but could be in flux while the team searches for a head coach.
“We’re going to get a plethora of people we never even thought of calling us, so there might be some great applicants,” Boudreau said. “Right now it’s wide open.”
Named one of the 100 greatest NHL players in January, Stevens was tasked with coaching the Wild’s blue line and penalty kill. The Wild finished last season with the league’s seventh-fewest goals per game allowed (2.51) and eighth-best penalty kill (82.9 percent).
“[The blue line] was one of the draws of me coming to Minnesota,” Stevens said. “I had a lot of fun working with the players. They were a great group of guys and very responsive. I think they made progress. Young ‘D’ take a little longer to develop, so I think there’s a lot more yet for some of these young defensemen moving forward.”
Stevens said he learned a lot from Boudreau and will miss him. That feeling is mutual.
“He worked long, long hours,” Boudreau said. “We did everything together. He was a young coach, and I think he learned a lot over the course of the year. I was really excited about bringing the whole group back because we got along great together, but I had this inkling in the back of my mind. Scott was away from home and his wife was away from him quite often and she’s going back to school in New York and he’s a real family guy. I didn’t think it out loud, but I thought this was a possibility.
“He’ll be very hard to replace because A), the credibility rating off the bat and B) his work ethic. You can see why he’s a Hall of Famer and Stanley Cup champion. I learned so much about what it takes to be a champion just by watching him work. All of those little things, it’s going to be hard to replace. And loyal. He was loyal as the day is long.”
Stevens came to the Wild after being a studio analyst for NHL Network.
“At this point, I’m just going to take a step back,” Stevens said. “I really have no plans right now. Whether I do some work with the [NHL] Network, I’m not sure right now.”