As he milled around home Tuesday evening after the Wild was officially eliminated from playoff contention, coach Bruce Boudreau wondered, “What now?”
This was the first time in his 12-season NHL career behind the bench that he didn’t advance after leading a team from start to finish. His only other missed playoff came in 2012 after he took over the Ducks in November, with Anaheim’s bid falling short despite a second-half surge under Boudreau.
That year was also the last time the Wild didn’t move on to compete for the Stanley Cup.
“It’s weird,” Boudreau shared the next day, after the Wild’s final practice of the season Wednesday at Tria Rink. “It’s not a good feeling. If you take anything from it, [it’s] that you understand you never want it to happen again.”
Rehashing the past six months that led the Wild to Saturday’s finale in Dallas against the Stars will be Boudreau’s focus once his earlier-than-usual offseason begins, but whether he’ll get the chance to redeem the Wild in 2019-20 is unclear as the 64-year-old approaches the final season of his four-year contract.
“The competitiveness in me always wants to make amends for what went wrong,” Boudreau said. “So obviously, I want to come back. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to go anywhere. But that’s not my call, obviously.”
There is no indication the Wild is considering a coaching change. An NHL source said owner Craig Leipold and General Manager Paul Fenton had not discussed the matter.
While the Wild faded this season, sitting 37-35-9 with one game to go, its partnership with Boudreau has still been a fruitful one.
Since hiring him in 2016 after he had stops in Anaheim and Washington with the Capitals, the Wild is 131-86-28 — a .592 points percentage that ranks 11th in the NHL over that span.
Boudreau’s first campaign was the most successful one in franchise history, culminating in 49 wins and 106 points, and the Wild also topped 100 points a year ago.
But both seasons fizzled in the first round, in just five games.
“I just always never wanted to miss [the playoffs],” Boudreau said. “So it’ll be a tough pill to swallow, to watch it.”
A former Jack Adams Award winner as coach of the year, Boudreau is the second-fastest to reach 500 wins (which he accomplished March 2018) and is ninth among active coaches in wins (540) and third in points percentage (.641).
Boudreau remained at the helm of the coaching staff when Fenton took over for Chuck Fletcher. That was the first wave of a front-office shuffle, with Tom Kurvers and Jack Ferreira joining Wild brass and former senior vice president of hockey operations Brent Flahr departing midseason to join Fletcher in Philadelphia, where he was brought in to be the Flyers’ GM.
Turnover also hit the roster, with Fenton making the most significant revisions leading up to the trade deadline when he dissolved the core he inherited by shipping out forwards Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund.
Fenton is scheduled to address the media Tuesday. Boudreau’s four-year contract is worth $10.5 million before playoff bonuses.
“You always want [clarity] sooner than later,” Boudreau said.
Until then, he’ll keep operating as if nothing has changed.
“You coach until you’re told not to coach anymore,” he said.