Poor Bruce Boudreau. He looks and sounds like he has a bad case of Wild Weary.
It’s an affliction that has hit previous Wild coaches, stripped of their last drop of patience by a roster that performs to hot-and-cold extremes.
Coaching the Wild must be exhausting mentally. Boudreau appears exasperated by the latest tailspin.
He called a 4-1 loss to Edmonton last week “sort of the last straw.”
He criticized veterans who have performed a disappearing act as being “a shell of the players that I’ve known for 2½ years.”
“Pretty unforgivable” is how he described a ghastly line change that resulted in a goal in a 5-4 collapse to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Somewhere, Mike Yeo takes a sip of beer and mutters, “Amen brother.”
However this season plays out — whether it is playoffs or April tee times — new Wild General Manager Paul Fenton shouldn’t make Boudreau the scapegoat for a lineup that plays hockey as if it’s a chore.
At some point, the onus should fall on players and roster construction. Boudreau is a good coach who appears to be out of answers but still searching for ways to spark a lethargic group.
Where is the desperation? The urgency?
Maybe Boudreau should steal Yeo’s meltdown material and smash his stick and scream “whoop-de-do.”
The NHL’s Western Conference is so pedestrian that the Wild, remarkably, remains in the final wild-card spot despite hitting snooze repeatedly since the All-Star break. There is still roughly one-third of the season left, so the Wild technically isn’t down to its last straw.
It just feels that way. Everyone is angry — coaches, players, fans. It’s a bad spot right now.
Fenton faces a considerable task in reconstructing the roster this offseason. Not tweaks. We’re talking an overhaul. A transformation. A brand new look.
He should keep the status quo at coach, though. The NHL cycles through coaches like a factory assembly line, but constantly changing coaches isn’t always the right answer.
Fenton’s private thoughts on Boudreau aren’t known, but generally speaking, new GMs prefer to pick their own coach. That’s just how professional sports tend to work.
Boudreau wasn’t Fenton’s hire, and he has only one year left on his deal, which is a tenuous starting point for any coach. The Wild’s inconsistent season hasn’t helped matters, and this post-All-Star break malaise has been infuriating.
Boudreau’s coaching isn’t a problem, though. He’s tried every motivational tactic in search of something that might shake players out of their doldrums. He’s shuffled line combinations like a Vegas card dealer and incorporated Fenton’s midseason acquisitions in key roles. Nothing has ignited a hot streak.
Losing defenseman Matt Dumba and captain Mikko Koivu to season-ending injuries was a Mike Tyson punch to the midsection. Their absences leave voids not capable of being adequately filled by their replacements. But every team deals with injuries to varying degree.
The more nagging issue is that the Wild’s best players have collectively disappeared. Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle are all having disappointing seasons. They’re not producing nearly enough and have been invisible some games.
Only Zach Parise has performed to his standards among the core forwards. A team usually can compensate for a key player who underperforms. Not an entire group of them, on top of the injury situation.
Boudreau’s recent comments shine a bright light on his frustration. He seems almost apoplectic over his veterans’ inability to snap out of their funk.
A playoff trip remains possible, but the invisibles need to reappear and start scoring goals and play with desperation. Boudreau can’t snap his fingers and make that happen. That’s on them.
Meanwhile, Fenton is quietly observing and taking notes. His offseason presumably will be busy. In the best case, there will be alignment in vision between the new general manager and the veteran coach he inherited. Coaching isn’t the reason behind a slumping team or a concern looking forward. It’s a roster that needs more than tweaks.