No Love for Bruce Boudreau (or me)

Bruce Boudreau woke up early Friday morning, made his coffee, and plucked a single rose from his manicured garden.

He thought of his love for his Minnesota Wild GM, Bill Guerin.  He kissed the flower, then pulled it apart petal by petal, whispering “He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me! He loves me -” 

Bruce’s fantasy was interrupted by a phone call. It was the Wild front office. He was fired. Happy Valentine’s day, fella.

The premature dumpings are a theme this year. Boudreau is the 8th coach fired this season, which is tied for the most in NHL history with two months left in the season. The trend is especially weird with so many teams in playoff contention this season.

Gerard Gallant was fired from Vegas on January 15th with the Golden Knights just 3 points behind the division-leading Coyotes at the time. Gallant was a fan favorite after leading a damn EXPANSION team to the Stanley Cup finals his first year and a playoff appearance his second year. He lost in the first round last year, but only due to the absolute insanity of that 5-minute major that helped the Sharks score 4 goals in shocking fashion and ultimately win in overtime. Other victims include Peter Laviolette in Nashville, and Mike Babcock in Toronto. .

While the Wild aren’t, you know, good, the move does not seem to make sense to me. They had a run of 7-3-1 preceding the firing. They’re only 3 points behind the Coyotes for the second wildcard spot in the West while competing in arguably the best division in hockey, the NHL’s Central.

The Wild have stayed afloat despite a terrible season by Devan Dubnyk (.893, 3.33, 10-14-1). Dubnyk has a career GAA of 2.58 and .915 save percentage over 517 games. In fact, Boudreau had the stones to give Alex Stalock more starts than Dubnyk – 29 to 27 – after Dubnyk appeared 67 times last season. 

Look at Minnesota’s top skaters: Parise (35 points), Koivu (15 pts; missed time with injury), Eric Staal (41 pts), Ryan Suter (10 pts) are all 35+ and not performing at their pay rates at this point. Fiala (38 pts) and Zuccarello (30 pts_ have been nice additions. But they’re in the same range of skill as Parise and Koivu, who couldn’t get it done in Minnesota in their prime.

Boudreau is one of the most successful hockey coaches still in business. He’s only missed the playoffs twice in 12 seasons as an NHL coach, posting a 567-302-115 record. The knock on Boudreau is that he underachieves in the playoffs and is therefore a loser, even though he’s won his division in 8 of 12 seasons.

Personally, I think Boudreau just suffers from bad optics:  he’s lost a ton of Game 7’s (all at home, I might add, in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 2016). His other 3 exits were all in the first round. Also, I hate to say it, be he’s unfortunately a rather homely guy. Bad looks have really cost Bruce. It’s easy to use Bruce Boudreau as a scapegoat.

The more I think about it, the more Bruce Boudreau seems to be hockey’s Andy Reid. He’s flown through regular seasons but can’t seem to put it together in the playoffs. Andy Reid was seen as a nice guy who couldn’t get it done when it counted: AKA, an overweight loser. Bruce has an even worse PR problem with his lack of mustache and also other hair.

The Minnesota situation is a GM problem. They’ve had 3 GM’s in 3 years. The team is just a mediocre construction. It makes sense that Bill Guerin wants to make the team his own, but I struggle to understand the timing of the decision. 

***

Patience is hard to come by these days.

Finding and keeping the right coach is like finding and keeping an actual healthy romantic situation. Both parties have to surrender themselves to the ebb and flow of the relationship. You have to find your balance. 

When naked, lovers have to balance their ratio of vanilla sex with their experimentation with tasteful, yet dynamic, battery-powered silicon fun-toys. Building a dynamic sexy time routine takes time and a sensitive touch.

When building a team, NHL GM’s have to balance owner, media, and fan expectations. Too often, GM’s are bailing on coaches early, caving to pressures from more ignorant sources, and scapegoating coaches without a fair shake. Balance is harder than ever to aspire to in the social media age, where outside influence lives in your back pocket. 

It’s in your face at red lights, on buses, and on the toilet. Attention spans are ravaged tempting alternatives as well as criticism. When you can windowshop for the next thing in the palm of your hand, what’s the incentive to ride it out and to let things breathe? There’s no benefit of the doubt when the next unsullied option is right there. Your present reality becomes disposable. You get stuck chasing the greener grass.

I recently got screwed by a date’s internet-age attention span.

Over Christmas, I went on a dating app date in Pennsylvania. My mom recently bought a house out there, and I met a girl from Long Island, which is close to my native Queens. We went out two nights in a row, and hit it off great. She’s a gardening hippie who wears flannel, smokes Marlboro Reds, and drinks Bud Light. She sings fake lyrics to make fun of songs she hates. I was smitten.

I’m a go-hard, so even though I live in New Orleans,  I suggested we pick a weekend to meet up in January to hang out again. She was completely into it, so I bought a ticket. She was my first date on this dating app and the frontrunner to become my second ex-wife.

We planned the whole weekend together. Things were going great. She was FaceTiming me almost every day with a joint and a positive attitude, showing me her apartment, her town, and her plants. She was responsive to my comments about mutual masturbation. SHE OWNED HOCKEY SKATES.

Two weeks before my visit, the texts slowed to a trickle. Then, three days of nothing. I called. I texted. Her phone was off. When she got back to me, she had two pieces of bad news: 1) she was traveling to Arizona that weekend could only hang out on Sunday. Cool. 2) She liked her ex again. COOL.

Now, here’s where I fuck this up — I insist on hangout out anyway, because we had plans and I bought my ticket. “It’s cool if you don’t want to hang out, but I’m down to if you do.” I literally made myself the backup. What a shmuck.

So, we agreed to hang out Saturday night and Sunday before I flew out. I confirmed with her on Friday. I text her on Saturday. Nothing. I call — phone’s off. So, with nowhere to stay that night, I rented a motel in rural Suffolk County, Long Island, to mope with shelter and WiFi. The next morning, her phone was still off. I resigned myself to the fact that I had been ghosted.

I drove out to Montauk, taking in the unique combination of wealth and state parks on Long Island’s East End. I went for a 10 minute run in one of the parks. I walked out to the end of the pier in a secluded inlet. My stubbornness wouldn’t let me go to the airport 6 hours early despite feeling like a complete donkey.

As I headed back west toward the airport, I decided to stop by Southampton ice rink. The romantic in me thought that maybe the universe would meet halfway, that destiny would descend on my me at my sanctuary, the rink, and my last and greatest love would meet me where I met my innocent first. 

I called her again — phone off. The rink cost $25 to skate, plus skate rental. It was expensive, but — holy shit! She texted me!

“Sorry, my phone died.” 

Of course it did. And, of course, you didn’t have access to an iPhone charger for 20 hours. I called her. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to hang out. I’m at my ex’s place.”

No fucking kidding, eh? She loves me not, boys.

Bruce, I feel your pain. Like so many times in our lives, with no explanation, out of nowhere, we’re back to square one. Even though we both look like stooges, with my too-long hair and your complete lack of it, I know we’ll be back out there for Game 7, fully believing we’re gonna win.

Author: Puckraker

Puckraker grew up skating and retired after a Tier III NYS tournament appearance with the Great Neck Bruins. These days, Puckraker is a lawyer living the dream from New Orleans, where there are no hockey rinks.

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