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Canucks: An emotional Bruce Boudreau knows it’s over

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The Vancouver Canucks’ head coach got emotional talking about his job security on Friday. He’s expected to be fired within days

What a way to treat a human being.

Asked Friday morning about how much he values being a head coach in the National Hockey League, Vancouver Canucks bench boss Bruce Boudreau got so emotional he couldn’t answer.

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“I’ll talk later,” was all he could manage in response to the final question of his pre-game media scrum, tears welling in his eyes and a lump clearly in his throat.

Everyone knew what it’s about: his days behind the Canucks’ bench are numbered.

He’s expected to be replaced within days, most likely by Rick Tocchet, the ex-NHLer who has been working for TNT’s NHL telecasts and who has served as head coach of the Arizona Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boudreau, who has generally been on the ice for morning skates decided not to join his team on Friday, as they prepared to face the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Arena.

He didn’t address his team either about all the noise, though he said he may do so on Saturday, when the Canucks face the Edmonton Oilers.

“They know,” he said about what’s going on. “There’s a lot of media here.

“I’ve got my wife calling me saying ‘you’re not on the ice is everything okay?’ So you guys are getting it out all over the country. It’s tough not to feel it but I mean, you just love it. You love it. You want to go do it,” he said of pressing on, despite everything.

“That’s the way I shut it out and it’s basically just realizing how much you care about the game and the players and all that goes on.”

With this in mind, here are some numbers from Boudreau’s illustrious coaching career.

20

Boudreau is 20th all-time in wins. Going into the weekend he sat tied with Jaques Lemaire on 617 wins.

He’s three victories shy of Bryan Murray for 19th all time.

15

Boudreau has been an NHL head coach for 15 seasons.

Before being hired by owner Francesco Aquilini halfway through the 2021-22 season, Boudreau had coached the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild.

Boudreau’s coaching longevity is the 29th most seasons in NHL history.

Los Angeles’s Todd McLellan and Dallas’s Peter DeBoer have also coached for 15 seasons in the NHL.

2

Of the 22 coaches who have won more than 600 regular season games in their career, just one has a better career points percentage: Scotty Bowman.

It took Boudreau 1,049 games to get to 600 wins. It took Bowman 1,002 games.

53

Boudreau’s best run as a coach were his three full seasons in Washington, from 2008-09 to 2010-11.

His Capitals took 53 per cent of the even-strength shot attempts.

In that era teams hadn’t quite gotten their heads around the power of defending shots from the slot, so simply outshooting your opponents was a very simple metric to track likely future success.

Things have become a little more nuanced, as teams have become more adept at defending the slot and thus taking away the most dangerous shots.

At the same time, teams have pretty much stopped flinging pucks from the sideboards, and all the while scoring is up and shots per-game are up, too.

9.4

Boudreau’s teams have always impressive at finishing.

This season, the Canucks are scoring on 9.4 per cent of their shots taken at five on five.

That’s fourth best in the league and is in keeping with Boudreau’s historical record.

In his three full seasons in charge in Washington, the Capitals had shot 8.5 per cent at five on five, good for fourth best in the league.

In his three full seasons in Anaheim, the Ducks had the fifth best five-on-five shooting percentage in the league at 8.3 per cent.

Even in Minnesota his team was in the top third of the league, scoring on “just” eight per cent of their shots, but still ninth best in the NHL.

Boudreau knows how to wring goals out of his lineups.

2

Boudreau has been a head coach since 1992, when he made debut behind the bench for the Muskegon Fury of the old Colonial Hockey League.

In the three decades he’s been a head coach, leading teams in the old International Hockey League, the East Coast Hockey League, the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League, he had just two losing seasons before this one.

In his third year coaching he was let go as head coach of the IHL’s Fort Wayne Komets, a year after leading the Komets to the Turner Cup final. (His son Ben now coaches the Komets, who play in the ECHL these days.)

The Komets had a losing record when he was let go.

The only other losing season on Boudreau’s resume was his first season in charge of the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters, but his team still made the playoffs that year, losing in the second round.

A big key to Lowell’s second-half surge that year was the addition of Roberto Luongo, who was in his first year of professional hockey and was farmed out to Lowell by the New York Islanders half way through the season.

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Leafs may have lucked out with timing of Auston Matthews and Matt Murray injuries – The Globe and Mail

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and goaltender Matt Murray celebrate after defeating the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena in Denver on Dec. 31, 2022.Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Not that it is ever good to have key players injured, but the Maple Leafs may have caught a break with Auston Matthews and Matt Murray.

With the NHL’s all-star weekend just ahead, both will have more time to nurse what ails them while also possibly missing less action.

Matthews suffered a knee sprain in an overtime victory against the New York Rangers on Jan. 25 and the team’s star centre is expected to be sidelined at least three weeks. It will cause him to miss Saturday’s all-star spectacle in Sunrise, Fla.

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Murray, who had already surrendered the starting job in Toronto’s net to Ilya Samsonov, is now plagued by an ankle affliction and it is anybody’s guess when he will return.

The 28-year-old, whose acquisition was seen as risky owing to his history of injuries, has already missed more than a month with an adductor strain. He has not played 40 games in a season since 2018-19.

“There’s something there that’s going to require time for sure,” Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leafs’ head coach, said. “We won’t quite know, really, until we come back from the break.”

Toronto has a contest against Boston at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday before its eight-day recess begins. Its next game after that will be at Columbus on Feb. 10.

Despite a lengthy list of injuries, the Maple Leafs have done well over the first two-thirds of the season. They are 31-12-8, second in the NHL’s Atlantic Division and a shoe-in to reach the playoffs even if 11 points behind the Bruins.

Boston is an almost incomprehensible 38-7-5 but arrives in town with three consecutive losses. A win will boost the Maple Leafs’ faint hopes of catching up.

“You want to go into the break feeling good,” Keefe said Monday after a team meeting and an optional workout for players at the Ford Performance Centre. “We expect a tough game for sure.

“Our job is to keep pace and apply pressure a little more, just like the teams behind us are trying to do to us. It is a great way to go into the all-star break. There is a lot of excitement.”

After an uninspired effort in a loss to Ottawa on Friday, Toronto rebounded to dismantle the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Sunday.

John Tavares recorded two assists in the 1,000th game of his NHL career, Morgan Rielly scored for the first time this campaign and Samsonov recorded 23 saves as he ran his record on home ice to 15-1-1.

“We played today more for John,” Samsonov said after improving his record to 17-5-2 overall. He did not realize Tavares was about to reach a milestone until a pre-game ceremony.

“One thousand games,” Samonov said, pausing, “That’s amazing.”

Rielly, who is respected as an offensively skilled defenceman, had gone without a goal in 35 previous games this season. In the best year of his career, he had 20 goals.

“Mostly, I just feel relief,” Rielly said. “We wanted to respond after a bad game against Ottawa. We weren’t very proud of ourselves when we went home from here on Friday.”

Joseph Woll, who is 12-1 with a .928 save percentage for the Toronto Marlies, has been called up from the American Hockey League as Samsonov’s backup.

With any luck at all, Woll will not be pressed to play thanks to the upcoming prolonged break.

But first the Bruins come to town.

“Every game against Boston is special,” Alexander Kerfoot, the Maple Leafs’ forward, said.

William Nylander had an assist on Sunday and on Monday was named the league’s second star of the week. He leads Toronto with 28 goals and is tied with Mitch Marner for the team lead with 59 points.

“We are just trying to carve our way back to Boston,” Nylander said. “We have to keeping winning games and see what happens.

“The Bruins are on an incredible pace and will be hard to catch but we are going to try our best to do that.”

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Cult figure Bobby Hull was a hockey wild man in a bygone NHL era – The Globe and Mail

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Chicago Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull is introduced to fans during a convention in Chicago on July 26, 2019.Amr Alfiky/The Associated Press

Before Bobby Hull showed up, the NHL was long on workmanlike effort and short on rock ’n’ roll erraticism. Now that he’s gone, it’s returned to its former state.

But for a while there, Hull played hockey the way Led Zeppelin played arenas – the most interesting stories didn’t happen in public view, and few of them were the sort you’d want to hear in decent company.

One of the great pure goal scorers in the game’s history and its most notable off-season farmer, Hull bridged the gap between the NHL’s working-class roots and its jet-set aspirations. His career was full of ‘what ifs’ – what if he’d stayed in the NHL past his early 30s?; what if he’d been allowed to play in the Summit Series? The best testament to Hull’s athletic greatness was that despite often working against his own best interests, he still managed to be remembered as great.

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Hull, 84, died on Monday.

Like many of his contemporaries, Hull was the sort they grew big on the farm. Born in rural Ontario, he came up through the provincial ranks and joined the Chicago Black Hawks in 1957. He was only 18, but already fully formed as a player.

In a league full of big, tough men, Hull was bigger and tougher, but also remarkably skilled. His slap shot is still remembered as a weapon of NHL mass destruction.

Teammate Glenn Hall once said of it: “The idea was not to stop that thing, but to avoid getting killed.”

Defending Hull was a special challenge because he didn’t have to find a way around you. He could just go through you.

He remains the only hockey player who is more recognizable with a pitchfork in his hands, bailing hay, than he was in uniform on the ice. Up until the chemists got involved, Hull may have had the most imposing physique in sports history. He put it to brutal use on the ice.

He was the first player to score more than 50 goals in a campaign. He scored more points than anyone ever had in a season. He won a single Stanley Cup, giving him access to the best-ever conversation.

In a two-fisted league, Hull and his Chicago teammates played a particularly exuberant brand of hockey. It made them famous outside the game’s usual strongholds.

Like a lot of other famous people in the sixties, Hull took full advantage of the social perks.

I spent an hour with him in a hotel room a decade ago. He was releasing a book and in high spirits, clearly enjoying the attention. But there was a hook of resentment in every story he told.

“We had guys who liked to have fun. But when they dropped the puck at 7:30, we played guilty,” Hull said. I remember him titled forward, waving his hands around. They were enormous.

Guilty?

“We used to say to each other, ‘C’mon, guys. We were pissed up last night. So now we gotta play guilty.’ And there are a lot of guys who don’t understand that – these coaches, I mean. Don’t bother us, cause we’re the guys who know how to play. I never listened to a coach in my life.”

This sort of approach worked for Hull, until it didn’t.

When he publicly mused that he would consider leaving the NHL to join the upstart World Hockey Association for a million dollars – a ridiculous amount at the time – guess what? They gave him a million dollars. That was 1972.

Having got what he wanted, Hull found out it wasn’t what he needed. Once the biggest deal in the biggest league, Hull became the richest guy in an outfit no one cared about.

He continued to score goals in the WHA through the seventies, but his star dimmed. His turncoat status meant he wasn’t invited to join Team Canada for the Summit Series. Just like that, Hull was cut out of Canadian history.

Eventually, he’d find his way back to the national team and the NHL, but the damage had been done. Hull became a cautionary tale about valuing the wrong things.

Post-career, shorn of the protection that teams and the journalists who cover them offer to active stars, Hull went from colourful to objectionable. In the late nineties, it was reported that Hull had given an interview to an English-language Russian newspaper in which he praised Hitler and denigrated Black people.

Once back home, Hull denied it all. The paper stuck to its version of the story and the issue was left unresolved. Whatever the truth of it, Hull was pushed down to the second tier of NHL legends. He still worked the autograph circuit, but no one was anxious to have him make appearances on behalf of the game.

Hull leaned into his reputation as a hockey wild man rather than a legend of the sport. By that point, he was most familiar to contemporary fans as the father of Brett Hull. That seemed to bother him as well.

Where does Hull figure in the pantheon? As a cult figure.

The NHL’s golden age is chock-a-block with team-first guys who played the game the right way – Howe, Beliveau, Richard, Orr, et al. The hard thing is finding a guy in there that anyone had a bad word to say about.

Hull was the wild card in that pack. He played like a virtuoso and lived like a roadie. He made terrible decisions, but kept emerging from them, diminished but intact. He was hockey’s fallen star, and one who kept falling.

It doesn’t make him heroic, but it does make him interesting.

That time I met him he was going through his own book, looking at pictures of himself and pointing out the other people in them.

“He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead,” Hull said, quiet and contemplative for the first time that afternoon. “I hate it when I’m the only one alive in these things.”

Now he’s gone, and an era with him. If it can be said that the NHL had a wild, uncontrollable period in its adolescence, Hull embodied it. Then, like a lot of precocious teens, he never quite get over it.

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Canucks left searching for off-ice leadership in wake of Horvat trade – Sportsnet.ca

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