At the outset of his coaching career, Bruce Boudreau was asked if he was defensive-minded or offense-oriented.
“Why can’t you be both?” he answered.
His plan was to be solid without the puck and creative with it, an approach that’s worked for Boudreau’s teams.
The 63-year-old recently reached the 500-win plateau, becoming the second fastest in NHL history to ascend to that milestone behind only Scotty Bowman.
And by tracing how Boudreau accomplished that feat, it’s easy to understand how he’s grown into the coach he is now with the Wild.
“You just have to learn what your personnel is and play to that,” he said.
Win No. 100: Capitals 4, Rangers 2 (Nov. 17, 2009)
This was during Boudreau’s third season at the helm of the Capitals. He helped flip a last-place team into a division leader in 2007-08 and the Capitals went on to secure their first postseason berth in five years. Boudreau earned the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach.
That was just a preview of what to expect under Boudreau; after another playoff appearance the following season, his 100th win was the beginning of a memorable 2009-10 for Washington. The team not only achieved its first Presidents’ Trophy, but it amassed an eye-popping 121 points.
“I was feeling comfortable as an NHL coach at that point,” Boudreau said.
Win No. 200: Capitals 4, Coyotes 3 (Nov. 21, 2011)
What stands out about this milestone is Boudreau remembers learning he was the fastest coach in NHL history to rattle off 200 wins, but the record pace with which he was leading the Capitals wasn’t enough to save his job.
Just a week after posting this victory, Boudreau was dismissed by the Capitals — fired after a franchise-best start fizzled, culminating in a 5-1 loss to the Sabres.
Boudreau wasn’t caught off guard, waiting by the telephone all weekend after that letdown to Buffalo for a call that didn’t come until Monday morning.
“This can’t be good news,” he told then-Capitals General Manager George McPhee during the chat. And despite an impressive debut behind an NHL bench, Boudreau didn’t sense another opportunity was looming. “I’ve always thought that no one would ever hire me again after every job,” he said.
Win No. 300: Ducks 1, Blues 0 (Feb. 28, 2014)
Before he became the fastest in NHL lore to score 300 wins, Boudreau made a different kind of history.
He became head coach of the Ducks just two days after being let go by the Capitals, the quickest turnaround for a coach to get fired then hired ever in the league.
Boudreau didn’t know anyone with Anaheim except a few players he had coached in the minors, but the transition looked seamless because the Ducks improved — in 2013-14, they recorded their best season to date (54 wins, 116 points).
“In Anaheim I learned defense, and then we led the league in defense,” Boudreau said. “That was the personnel that we had.”
Win No. 400: Ducks 3, Kings 2 (March 5, 2016)
Hitting this milestone — again as the fastest in NHL history to do so — against the Ducks’ rival made it memorable, and Boudreau recalled the players being eager to achieve that victory for him.
More uncertainty, however, lingered after this highlight, with Boudreau getting fired two days after the Ducks were ousted in Game 7 of their first-round series with Nashville.
Like before, he wasn’t surprised. Even with two years left on his contract, he renewed the lease for the house he was staying at for just a year before the season.
Win No. 500: Wild 4, Predators 1 (March 24)
The same script continued to play out, with Boudreau getting lassoed to Minnesota that offseason.
He helped the franchise to its best performance to date in his debut, and this season the Wild has steadily improved amid challenging adversities. The win over the Predators accurately captured the team’s resiliency in climbing toward a potential sixth straight postseason berth.
“It was maybe our best game played from top to bottom,” Boudreau said.
Since then, Boudreau hasn’t relished or basked in this achievement, not with the Wild still vying to secure a playoff spot.
But later, maybe in the summer when he’s on the golf course surrounded by friends, Boudreau will think to himself how cool it is that he’s etched out a section of history all to himself.
“That would be the kind of atmosphere you think, ‘It’s pretty neat,’” he said.
Wild's week ahead
Monday: 7 p.m. vs. Edmonton
Wednesday: 9 p.m. at Anaheim
Thursday: 9:30 p.m. at L.A.
Saturday: 9:30 p.m. at San Jose
Mon., Wed., Sat. FSN; Thu. FSN+
Player to watch: Anze Kopitar, Kings
The center has 90 points — 35 goals, 55 assists — making him one of just eight players to accomplish the feat in Kings history.
“The ultimate goal here is to get as many wins as we can and keep winning. That’s been my mentality since I’ve been playing, so it shouldn’t be too hard to transition.”
Wild winger Jordan Greenway, who joined the team last week from Boston University
NHL short takes
• An already stacked Predators lineup got even deeper Thursday. Nashville signed its first-round draft pick from last year, forward Eeli Tolvanen, to a three-year, entry-level contract after the 18-year-old’s contract with the Kontinental Hockey League was recently terminated. His 36 points during his season in the KHL were the most by an under-19 player in league history — his scoring punch could make Nashville even more dangerous in the playoffs.
• This has been a tough season for the Blackhawks, who spiraled toward their first non-playoff finish in 10 years, but they logged a feel-good memory Thursday night by pressing 36-year-old accountant Scott Foster into NHL duty against the Jets. After goalie Anton Forsberg was injured before the game and his replacement, Collin Delia, cramped up in the third period, Foster, as the emergency backup goalie on hand, made his debut. He played 14 minutes, 1 second and stopped all seven shots he faced, earning first-star honors and an experience he’ll likely never forget.
• If Wild center Matt Cullen retires after this season, it’s clear who will have the title as the oldest player in the NHL. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara has signed on for a 21st season after agreeing to a one-year contract with Boston on Wednesday. Chara is 41 and will turn 42 next March.