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Tale of Two Coaches
April 2017

This year’s Winter sports season began with the hires of Bruce Boudreau as Minnesota Wild head coach and Tom Thibodeau as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

At the conclusion of each team’s regular season, Boudreau deserves praise for a job well done. Thibodeau? Not so much.

The Minnesota Timberwolves remain as the sad sacks of the NBA, spending yet another season out of the league’s playoff picture. The Wild, however, experienced the team’s best season ever, yet finishing behind division winner and rival Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite all his sidelines ranting and raving, Thibodeau failed to motivate his players any better than his predecessor, the laconic Sam Mitchell. The latter was roundly criticized for failing to get the most out of the talent (Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio) handed him. Questions abound regarding how Thibodeau managed to squander all that was turned over to him by Mitchell.

Boudreau, on the other hand, took what was given him and improved on it. The Wild won 49 games, losing 27, with 8 ties. This with a team that with the exception of Eric Stall, had the same talent, or lack of it, that appeared on last season’s roster.

Thibodeau’s bombast might have attracted more interest on Minneapolis’ side of the river, but his team is once again assigned a spot wandering the NBA desert without a chance of experiencing what the playoff season is all about. Playoff seasons in St. Paul are familiar occurrences. The Wild have been playoff participants since 2013. Timberwolves fans can only imagine what’s that like.

Boudreau’s team won 49 games, or nine more than was won the previous year in Minnesota by a team coached by the fired Mike Yeo and his replacement, John Torchetti. The previous high for team wins was 48 in 2006-07 coached by Jacques Lemaire.

Ironically, the Wild’s first round playoff opponent is a St. Louis Blues team now coached by the aforementioned Mike Yeo.

Boudreau is a self-proclaimed Canadian “hockey lifer” from Toronto who, in his player days, logged in 30 games with the erstwhile Minnesota Fighting Saints, a team that is now beloved, although, at the time of its existence, few bothered to see.

He began his coaching career in 1992 with Muskegon in the Colonial Hockey League. In 1993-94, with Fort Wayne, he was named Coach of the Year in the International Hockey League.

Boudreau later spent nine seasons as a head coach in the American Hockey League with Lowell, Manchester, and Hershey.

He was named interim head coach of the Washington Capitals in 2007. His team won the Southeast Division crown, and the interim tag was removed. He was named winner of the Jack Adams Award that season. His Capitals teams made the playoffs in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Boudreau became coach of the Anaheim Ducks on November 30, 2011. He coached Anaheim to playoff appearances in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Despite all his playoff successes, he has yet to come close to winning the Stanley Cup. Given the current unsteady play of goalie Devan Dubnyk, it’s difficult to forecast beyond the St. Louis series.

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