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Is Bruce Boudreau an elite NHL coach?

Aug 10, 2013, 7:03 PM EDT

boudreauwithrefgetty Getty Images

When you look at Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, it’s tough not to grin.

Unfortunately, his expressive, amusing personality might obscure the fact that he’s put together an impressive run in his still fairly brief NHL coaching career. Considering the Ducks’ surprising run to the 2013 Pacific Division title and his track record of success – at least in the regular season – one must ask: is he one of the league’s best bench bosses?

A good barometer

The 2013-14 season could be a great test for that question, for one thing. Despite coming into what is technically his third campaign with Anaheim, it will mark a few firsts. It will be his first chance to coach the team for a full 82 games. Considering the lockout and taking over the team in the middle of the 2011-12 season, this will mark Boudreau’s first chance to run a traditional training camp.

With Bobby Ryan traded out of town and Teemu Selanne mulling over retirement, he might inherit a weaker roster.

It’s also well-documented that many stats bloggers believed that the Ducks’ 2013 successes was fluky.

Impressive results mixed with postseason disappointments

Even so, it’s tough to deny that success has followed Boudreau around.

In 435 games coached between the Ducks and Washington Capitals, Boudreau has compiled a 258-123-54 record and five division titles. Hockey reference places his points percentage at .655, which ranks just behind Dan Bylsma (.671) while besting a varied group of coaches that include Mike Babcock (.635), Ken Hitchcock (.596) and 2013 Jack Adams winner Paul MacLean (.566).

Again, he’s still relatively new to the gig compared to guys like Babcock and Hitchcock, but it’s worth noting that he’s had such a distinguished start.

Naturally, many focus on the way he finishes, instead. Despite those five division title runs, Boudreau’s teams haven’t gotten to a conference final series yet.

For many, the ice-cream loving coach won’t be named among the best until he wins bigger games.

Who knows when – or if – he’ll make a deep playoff run, but one thing seems certain: it’ll be fun to watch him try.

  1. jrocknstuff - Aug 10, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    I’m a die hard Caps fan, and I still love Gabby, but I can’t consider him elite until he proves he can win in the postseason. Those Caps teams he had were easily good enough to make the conference finals if not more, yet he never got out of the second round. Not good enough to be considered elite…….yet

  2. kingsforever - Aug 10, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    Yes

  3. joey4id - Aug 10, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Never ways, and never will be. He failed miserably in Washington, and won’t do any better in Anaheim.

  4. phillyphanatic77 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    I wouldn’t say he’s elite, but he’s certainly one of the better coaches in the league. I’d put him in the same arena as Laviolette- good, not great. And I think he may have a tough year without Ryan and Selanne (possibly). I’d agree with those advanced stats ppl that the Ducks success was kinda flukey in a weird, short season. Can’t predict the future but IMO they’re not a surefire playoff team.

    • areaman714 - Aug 11, 2013 at 5:53 PM

      Advance stats people do not watch the actual games . . .

  5. porkchopexpress1969 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:35 PM

    No.

  6. mrpinkca - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    I suppose this depends on the definition of elite. He’s certainly not an elite strategist. That said, by “letting the boys play” he has gotten a lot out of the teams he’s coached.

  7. stakex - Aug 11, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    He has an elite regular season record, that much is clear. The problem is that his teams have generally struggled in the playoffs, and when they have won it hasn’t been pretty. I don’t think he can be considered elite until he shows an ability to get his teams to win in the playoffs, and win convincingly.

  8. sjsharks66 - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:52 AM

    No way, but he has proven he is a good coach with the Ducks.

  9. jcmeyer10 - Aug 11, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    To be considered elite in my book you have to have playoff success. Until then he is a great regular season coach.

  10. swflyers8 - Aug 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    No, great regular season coach. That’s it. I loved it when the Flyers booted them in OT in 2008.

  11. jrocknstuff - Aug 11, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    Phillyphanatic – I can’t even put him in Laviolette’s class, because Laviolette has a cup.

    Boudreau’s 08 season was one of the best I’ve ever seen though. He took over the Caps the day after Thanksgiving and they were last in the entire NHL. They ended up winning the division.

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