The Anaheim Ducks made a rather unexpected move, replacing longtime head coach Randy Carlyle with former Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. While Carlyle proved himself as a great coach, it was time for a change.
Boudreau already has a successful coaching career under his belt, having led the Hershey Bears of the AHL to the Calder Cup Finals two years in a row, including winning the championship in 2006. On November 22, 2007, Boudreau was named interim head coach of the Washington Capitals and made an immediate impact. The team had played to a 6-14-1 start that season and then went 37-17-7 under Boudreau’s coaching, which led to the Southeast Division title and their first playoff appearance in five years. Boudreau’s early success won him the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s most outstanding coach.
There are already some comparisons to look at between Boudreau’s first season with the Capitals and his new hiring with the Ducks. The Capitals hired him on November 22, while the team was 6-14-1. The Ducks hired Boudreau on November 30, when the team was at 7-13-4. Both teams had plenty of talent but were struggling mightily. Does this mean the Ducks will see similar results? It’s possible, but not necessarily.
There will likely be an adjustment period at the beginning of Boudreau’s time in Anaheim. Consider this: Randy Carlyle was the head coach of the Ducks for seven years. The team is used to his system. For the top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan, that system is all they’ve known for their entire NHL careers. It can take some time to get used to an entirely new system of hockey, especially for a team that has been locked into such a drastically different style for so long.
But when the Ducks do adjust to the new style that Boudreau brings in, it will open up tremendous opportunities for an exciting brand of hockey. While Carlyle preached defense-first hockey along with dump-and-chase and grinding offense, the Washington Capitals were always a fast-paced, offensive-minded team under Boudreau.
It will be very interesting to see how the top line plays with more offensive freedom. They had always been successful playing the grind and cycle system under Carlyle, but with so much talent between the three of them, they could really catch fire. This should also benefit the second line, with Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, and now Andrew Cogliano all possessing great speed. Perhaps most importantly, Boudreau’s system could open up more offense from the third and fourth lines, both of which have talented players, but perhaps not the right players under Carlyle.
Boudreau’s hiring should also benefit the young talent coming up through Anaheim’s system. The Ducks have many skilled prospects that may not have worked well with the grind and cycle style that Carlyle played. Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, and Dan Sexton all have 17 points in 18 or fewer games in the AHL. Peter Holland has 10 points in 14 games played. However, none of them have had much success up on the NHL roster. All four of these prospects are more skill players than grinders or power forwards. The same can be said about Emerson Etem, who has an astonishing 53 points in 28 games in the WHL. Etem has incredible speed and relies on a much more wide-open game than Carlyle’s system would have allowed for. With Boudreau being more accustomed to a run-and-gun style of offense, the potential of all of these forward prospects just increased.
The same can be said about the Ducks’ defensemen. Veteran Lubomir Visnovsky and rookie standout Cam Fowler both had incredible stats last year. But look at the other talented defensemen that have come and gone with little success in a Ducks jersey: Mathieu Schneider, James Wisniewski, Ryan Whitney. All of them were duds on the Ducks’ blue line, but went on to find success on their next teams. Of course, Carlyle had great success with Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and Francois Beauchemin, but again it seems like it takes a certain type of player to succeed under Carlyle.
Boudreau did a tremendous job of forming a strong, well-rounded defensive core out of the young Karl Alzner, John Carlson, and of course Mike Green. Look for Boudreau to do the same with Fowler, Luca Sbisa, and prospects Justin Schultz and Sami Vatanen.
Towards the end of his time in Washington, Boudreau tried to instill a more defensive mindset to his team, but he is still by-and-large known for his offensive style of hockey. It might take some time to get used to (both for the players and the fans), but this coaching change should lead to some very exciting adjustments on the ice, and hopefully, on the scoresheets.