Last Wednesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent shockwaves around the NHL when they fired head coach Mike Babcock. The firing of Babcock was the first head coaching change during the 2019-20 season.
In the wake of this news, oddsmakers came out with their odds of who the next likely coach to get axed in the NHL is. It is Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Minnesota is off to a horrid 9-11-3 start, and with Boudreau in the final year of his coaching contract with Minnesota, he seems likely to get the pink slip from his new boss, general manager Bill Guerin.
It was a team with playoff aspirations in the wake of a 2018-19 season that saw the team miss the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. So all pressure seemingly should have been on Boudreau 2019-20, right?
In the words of College Gameday’s Lee Corso, “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!”
Guerin was named Wild general manager on Aug. 21 this past summer. The timing was very late in the offseason, as his predecessor, Paul Fenton, was not fired until July 30. Usually, teams make that move at the beginning of the offseason to give the incoming general manager as much time as possible to get settled in. But this was not a usual scenario.
As Guerin continues to settle in and figure out his priorities to right the ship in Minnesota, the head coach is one that certainly should be close to the top of that list.
But it is a priority he should save for after the season, not during.
There is plenty of fires Guerin has in front of him at the moment. Wild goaltending has been a disaster this season, and the future at the position needs to be sorted out.
Kirill Kaprizov is in the final year of his KHL contract, and Guerin has to make every effort possible to make sure the relationship remains cordial in the hopes of getting the 22-year-old forward to sign the dotted line and join Minnesota next season. Guerin also will have to make room on the wing for Kaprizov next season and has to decide which winger will be expendable via trade.
Team captain Mikko Koivu is in the final season of his contract, and at the age of 36, could be playing his final season with the Wild. Whether he comes back or not, Guerin will have to handle the situation delicately, as he does not want to risk alienating one of the franchise’s greatest stars.
With the Wild already at the bottom of the standings, there is absolutely no need to rush in making a head coaching decision at this juncture. The only instance Guerin should make such a move in-season, to fire Boudreau, is if his guy is lined up to go the next day. It’s probably not going to be Mike Babcock, meaning the move shouldn’t be coming anytime soon.
If he is just wanting to fire Boudreau and name an interim for the remainder of the year, it’s best just to wait until the offseason. It literally can’t get any worse than it currently is, so he might as well just ride out the season and sort it all out after.
Boudreau is being paid $3 million this season already, so you might as well keep him on instead of paying him to sit at home.
Also, consider if you are trying to woo a prospective candidate in the offseason and you just so happened to be picking number one or two overall in the draft. Having a top prospect like that, along with Kaprizov’s impending arrival, makes the job a little more appealing.
When all is said and done, Guerin has much more pressing issues currently than worrying about if he should let his head coach go during the season. It’s just better for everyone involved if that decision comes after the season, rather than during.
And by keeping Boudreau on, you are giving yourself the best shot of being competitive for the remainder of the year, which is something the Wild are badly trying to sell. Competitiveness.