Discernible changes were everywhere.
On the ice Friday, there was longtime NHL coach Bruce Boudreau’s presence. Debuting his black Wild track suit, Boudreau pulled players over to the whiteboard at record pace and barked orders like, “Faster!” and “Come on!!!”
There was Hall of Famer Scott Stevens routinely pulling aside young defensemen for tutelage and the odd sight of free-agent addition Eric Staal skating around a training camp in something other than a Carolina Hurricanes sweater.
Inside the locker room, there were inspirational quotes. Vince Lombardi, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, John Wooden, Roy Williams and Jerry West all have a corner. There’s a framed sign called “Core Covenant” that includes a list of 16 things “we do all the time and hold each other accountable for.”
“Everyone in hockey is like a kid at Christmas,” Boudreau said after his first day of practices. “I had my skates on an hour before and I forgot to take them off in between [sessions].”
Training camp has started. As forward Charlie Coyle said, “There’s a new way of doing things.”
It was a first opportunity for players to show Boudreau and his staff, which includes Stevens and veteran John Anderson, what they can bring. On Day 1, the battles were already intense.
“The adrenaline [of the] first day, everyone wants to make a good first impression,” Coyle said. “It’s going to be physical, it’s going to be a hard-nosed camp. Everyone’s here to get a job and knock people out of their job. Everyone came prepared. It’s good to see that intensity and competition right away. It’s going to make our team better.”
As players learn the new coach and his drills, there will be a lot of stopping for teaching moments. Guys who made mistakes were quietly told they’d made mistakes.
Friday was largely spent on defensive zone strategy, but Boudreau wants his entire system cemented by early next week because he wants pace in practice and “nothing slow.”
“That’s the way Bruce wants to play, always going and you always want to tire other teams out,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. “That first practice was a sign of things to come.”
Boudreau has a casual way of talking in practice compared to very technical former Wild coaches Mike Yeo and John Torchetti.
“I don’t have fancy words or phrases,” Boudreau said. “It’s pretty straightforward, black and white conversation. They get what I’m talking about pretty early on in the season, and then it’s working on it on a continual basis. I totally believe in repetitive things to get better.”
He believes in keeping things loose, too.
“He even says he doesn’t even know what’s coming out of his mouth half the time when he’s talking,” Coyle said, laughing.
Staal added of Boudreau: “He’s good, energized, he was excited. You could tell. You could feel that.”
Boudreau was especially impressed by Staal on the first day of camp and loved the makeshift lines of Jason Pominville-Staal-Jordan Schroeder and Jason Zucker-Coyle-Chris Stewart.
Lines are meaningless now, though. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Ryan Suter are back in town after being eliminated from the World Cup, but they’re off until Monday. Nino Niederreiter plays in a single-elimination semifinal for Team Europe on Sunday.
“For those guys [eliminated], it’s about forgetting about it now and focusing on our group here and the excitement level of this team,” Staal said. “It’ll be fun to get them back and get going here.”
Boudreau said his style of play has been “successful for me wherever I’ve gone, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t be successful here.”
His overall message: With a new coaching staff, the slate is clean.
“Everything is sort of off the table in our memory of you last year,” he said. “It’s what you show me now that’s important. So guys that had bad years or didn’t do good things last year have a great opportunity this year because we’re seeing them for the first time.”