Bruce Boudreau is a home-run hire for the Wild, a testament to the owner’s commitment to winning, the general manager’s aggressiveness in the coaching market and Boudreau’s relentless work ethic.
Craig Leipold approved spending premium money on a coach who can immediately make this team better, and Chuck Fletcher sold Boudreau on a team that occasionally embarrassed itself last season.
Tuesday, Fletcher introduced Boudreau at a news conference at the Xcel Energy Center and said he didn’t want to pass on many preconceived notions to Boudreau, that he wanted Boudreau to approach the Wild’s players with a “clean slate.’’
At first listen that sounds appropriately deferential. Why wouldn’t Fletcher, the team’s GM, let Boudreau apply fresh eyes to the Wild’s many problems?
But in this case, the only way for Fletcher to give Boudreau a “clean slate’’ is to aim a power washer at the team’s problems and turn it on full blast.
It’s Boudreau’s job to get the most out of his new players. It should be Fletcher’s job to deal with the existing problems that plague the team he built.
Ryan Suter spends too much time on the ice and is an unproductive member of the first-unit power play?
Fletcher should be the one to lessen Suter’s expectations for this season. He’s the one who signed Suter to a 13-year contract.
Zach Parise seemed to sour on his role as the face of the franchise?
Fletcher should be the one to remind him of his responsibilities.
Suter, Parise and Mikko Koivu don’t always see eye to eye?
That’s a problem that Fletcher should address before Boudreau has to.
The talent on the roster is uncertain or unrealized?
Fletcher is the man who built this team. He should be the one to address Thomas Vanek’s flightiness, the lack of production from younger forwards, and the uneven efforts of the team’s younger defensemen.
What the Wild’s ghastly slumps indicated was a lack of leadership and cohesion. Fletcher admitted Tuesday that he was troubled by those slumps, but refused to call them the result of a lack of “character.’’
That’s nothing more than semantics. A team losing its way, bickering and selling out its coaches should be defined as nothing less than a lack of character.
Boudreau is an ideal hire. He’s an excellent strategist. He’s flexible. He’s personable. With the exception of Game 7s, he seems to get the most out of his players.
He comes across as Flip Saunders in skates — someone who adores his game, learned to be a promoter at lower levels of the sport and wants everyone around him to love it as much as he does.
Boudreau is capable of handling locker-room problems and personality conflicts, but it would be wiser for this organization to make Fletcher the bad cop and Boudreau the good cop, at least while he is getting to know the team.
Boudreau is the third coach Fletcher has hired as GM of the Wild — the fourth if you include interim coach John Torchetti. Boudreau is the first coach of great experience Fletcher has hired. For the first time, he doesn’t have to hope that his coach will be able to learn on the job.
Now Fletcher needs to set Boudreau up for maximum success. By the time Boudreau meets with Suter, Parise, Koivu and the kids, Fletcher should have set the stage and, yes, cleaned the slate.
Everything Fletcher has done as general manager led to the moment where his owner had to shell out big bucks for the best coach on the market.
Fletcher got to run another news conference Tuesday only because of Leipold’s patience with his mistakes. This is Fletcher’s last chance to prove that his players are worthy of belief.
He can set Boudreau up for maximum success by playing the role of bad cop, and letting Boudreau start his tenure as the lovable figure who once confused his players by yelling, “You have to take the bull by the head.’’