Bruce Boudreau was fired by the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.
Boudreau, who was in his second season as coach, was replaced by Rick Tocchet.
“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Bruce and (assistant) Trent (Cull) for their contributions to this organization,” Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said. “We appreciate their dedication and wish them nothing but the best moving forward. This was not an easy decision to make, but one that we felt was necessary for this franchise.
“Rick Tocchet brings a wealth of knowledge to this team from both a coach and player perspective. He has had more than two decades of coaching experience, guiding teams of various styles. As a player, he displayed a high level of character, grit and intensity, while recording impressive offensive numbers.”
The Canucks (18-25-3) have lost 10 of their past 12 games and are sixth in the Pacific Division, 14 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. They are 31st in the NHL in goals against per game (3.96) and last on the penalty kill (65.9 percent).
“I thought it was over in November, when there was certain things said. And it wasn’t,” Boudreau said Saturday following a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. “We kept going. We kept going. This last stretch was pretty tough. … The guys gave it their all. I’m so proud of them. Everyone, they wanted to win. People don’t realize how bad they want to win. And then when they don’t win, they’re so upset with themselves. But they came and they worked every day at practice. They didn’t question anything I said, they just followed orders. A great group of guys that, I think it’s Rick Tocchet, is taking over.”
Following the loss to the Oilers, Boudreau stayed on the bench and clapped as fans chanted “Bruce, there it is.” He then fought back tears in his postgame press conference.
“You never know if it’s the end,” Boudreau said. “So when you’ve been in it for almost 50 years, you know, the majority of your life, and now if it’s the end, I had to stay out there and look at the crowd and just try to say, ‘OK, try remember this moment type of thing.’
“I just wanted to savor looking at the stands, because who knows if I’m ever going to get this chance again.
“I don’t think I lost the room, just lost games. I just had 15 [players] come up to me, we’re all crying together, which is silly for us men to do sometimes, but I think they would have went through a wall for me and, as a coach, that’s all you can ask for, quite frankly.”
Boudreau was hired by the Canucks to replace Travis Green on Dec. 5, 2021. At the time, the Canucks were in last place in the Pacific with an 8-15-2 record, but Boudreau went 32-15-10 with them, missing the playoffs by just two points. He was 50-40-13 in two seasons.
That led to Vancouver announcing May 13 that Boudreau would return as coach. Boudreau’s contract had included a team option for the 2022-23 season, as well as an option for him to walk away, according to Sportsnet.
However, the Canucks got off to a slow start this season, losing their first seven games (0-5-2), including becoming the first team in NHL history to blow a multigoal lead in each of its first four games of a season.
Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford then said on Jan. 16 that he was sticking with Boudreau as coach, although he also confirmed that he had spoken to potential candidates to replace him.
“When you say handled in this manner, I take it as part of all the speculation that was out there, so I’ll do the abbreviated form of how it was handled,” Rutherford said. “There’s different meetings during the season but leading up to this decision about a month ago, Patrik and Bruce and I had a meeting. We talked about where the team was at. … We talked about a bunch of things. I talked about the schedule where we were at, said that we would really like to get through the year with Bruce as the coach and then make a decision at that point, and we’d like to see some progress. Two weeks later, we had a follow up meeting, part of the due process, walked through a bunch of things again, and there wasn’t any improvement in the areas that we were hoping for. So then it got to the point where Patrik started to zero in on it and felt at that point we had to make a change.
“Now part of this process, and I will apologize to Bruce for this, is probably in my interviews over the course of the season, when people asked me a question, I’m probably too direct and too honest. And so that goes back to my comment about the team playing with structure, more structure and things like that. I’ve done that my whole career. I’ve tried to be honest. I’ve tried to answer the best I can and sometimes that affects certain people, and in this case, it probably did affect him, and I’m sorry I did that. I’ve learned from it, so I’ve decided that I need to zip it. I’m not going to talk about the team. I’m going to let Patrik and Rick Tocchet talk about the team and just stay away from those things. But unfortunately, it’s turned out the way it did. Nobody takes great pride in this. I’ve known Bruce for a long time. He’s been a friend and I feel very bad about it. And if I’ve offended anybody in the process, I apologize personally on behalf of the Canucks.”
Vancouver captain Bo Horvat, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and reportedly turned down an eight-year contract offer, said the team gave it their all for Boudreau.
“We’re proud of the way we stuck with it and fought until the very end,” Horvat said. “We all really care about Bruce in here. He cares about every single guy in this room, and whatever the fate may be, we’re always going to respect him as a person and as a coach.
“He’s done nothing but great things for us, so much respect for him. And he’s always going to be one of my favorites.”
Boudreau, 68, is 617-342-128 in 1,087 games with the Canucks, Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and Washington Capitals, and 43-47 in 90 playoff games. His .626 points percentage in the regular season is second in NHL history among coaches with at least 1,000 games, behind Scotty Bowman (.657).
“Obviously, we feel like we let him down in the room,” Canucks defenseman Luke Schenn said. “He deserves better. I think that’s on us as players. I’ve played obviously a long time and I’ve gone through, I don’t know, a handful of coaching changes, and a lot of time you do need a shake up, and sometimes coaches do lose the room, and I don’t think this was the case here. Guys enjoy playing for Bruce, and in this room, we feel like we let him down. We wanted to continue to try to do better for him, and unfortunately, just too many losses piled up.”
Tocchet, who will coach his first game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNP, NBCSCH, ESPN+, SN NOW), worked as a television analyst for Turner Sports the past two years after going 125-131-34 as coach of the Arizona Coyotes from 2017-21. The 58-year-old also coached the Tampa Bay Lightning for two seasons from 2008-10, going 53-69-26, and won the Stanley Cup twice as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016, 2017).
“Obviously, my relationship with Jim and Patrik, they’re first class guys,” Tocchet said. “When I was in Pittsburgh, they ran that thing first class, we had some success there. They know how I kind of tick, so that was another factor and just the itch to get back in it. I’ve had a couple opportunities in the past and didn’t take it, but this was something that I really looked hard at and it’s excites me. There’s some good pieces here, got some really elite players, got some role players that I think can do a bit more and we can get them in the lineup playing a little bit more, I think that’s going to help, but overall I’m just excited to be here.”
Along with Tocchet, Adam Foote was named assistant coach and Sergei Gonchar defensive development coach.
“We are also excited about the additions of Adam Foote and Sergei Gonchar to our coaching staff,” Allvin said. “Both individuals enjoyed long, successful playing careers as NHL defencemen and together provide a wide range of expertise on both sides of the puck. Tocchet, Foote, and Gonchar all bring a championship pedigree to the organization and we look forward to welcoming them to Vancouver.”
As a player, Tocchet had 952 points (440 goals, 512 assists) in 1,144 games over 18 seasons from 1984-2002 with the Philadelphia Flyers, Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Phoenix Coyotes. He also had 112 points (52 goals, 60 assists) in 145 playoff games, including helping the Penguins win the Cup in 1992.
“Regardless of how [Boudreau] went down, you have to have those relationships (with players),” Tocchet said. “That’s a big part of what I want to do is build relationships. That’s why the guys that I brought with me, I’m a relationship guy.
“I’ve been in this league as a coach or a player 30 plus years, so there’s been a lot of noise. You just block it out. That’s why I like to create that locker room as a safe place, where guys could go in there and we live in like a world of distractions, right? There’s distractions everywhere. You just try to be mentally strong and you rely on your inner group of people to help you through that sort of stuff.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Kevin Woodley contributed to this report