ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Anaheim Ducks fired coach Bruce Boudreau on Friday, two days after the four-time Pacific Division champions’ first-round exit from the playoffs.
While announcing the move, Ducks general manager Bob Murray expressed much more anger at his players than at Boudreau, who hasn’t been able to pair postseason success with steady excellence in his two NHL jobs in Anaheim and Washington. Boudreau has won 409 regular-season games and eight division titles, but just five playoff rounds in his coaching career.
The Ducks have lost a Game 7 on home ice in four consecutive playoff years, culminating in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Nashville in the first round.
“I just think the last four years, the way they’ve ended, all very similar, that I didn’t think it would be a good situation to go forward in,” Murray said. “In no way, shape or form is this pointing a gun at Bruce’s head. Let’s make that perfectly clear. But you’ve got to start somewhere.”
Boudreau had spectacular regular-season success with the Ducks, leading them to four consecutive division titles while going 208-104-40 in nearly five seasons in charge. He had similar success in his first NHL coaching job in Washington, going 201-88-40 and winning four Southeast Division titles in parts of five seasons.
But the Ducks’ last four seasons have ended in much the same disappointment as experienced by the Capitals, who won just two playoff rounds in four postseasons under Boudreau. The coach is an inexplicable 1-7 in Game 7s in his career, including six consecutive losses in the decisive game since 2009.
Compounding the pain, the Ducks also blew a 3-2 series lead in each of the past four postseasons, missing two opportunities to eliminate their opponents.
Murray acknowledged no complaints about Boudreau’s job performance while firing him, essentially acknowledging it’s easier to fire the coach than the players.
“Regular-season success is OK,” Murray said. “Making the playoffs is the most important thing, and then anything can happen. … I just felt it wasn’t going to work going forward.”
Anaheim lost the first two games against Nashville at home, but won the next three before losing the series. The Ducks outshot the Predators 28-10 over the final two periods of Game 7, but couldn’t overcome two early goals in a gut-wrenching loss.
“It’s the way we went out,” Murray said. “Let’s face it: I’d like to know where the heck they were in Games 1 and 2. The players are going to have to answer that the next four or five days. Where were they? They showed up in Game 7, but where was that passion, the controlled emotion? Where the heck was that? They’re going to have to be held accountable, too.”
Murray is in no hurry to replace Boudreau, he said. The Ducks will hold organizational meetings before getting to work on what’s already a busy offseason with several key supporting players up for new contracts.
“I’m going to meet the players, and then take a deep breath,” Murray said.
Anaheim fell one game short of the Stanley Cup Final last season, losing the Western Conference finals to Chicago in Boudreau’s longest postseason run.
That was the second straight year the Ducks were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, following their 2014 loss to Los Angeles in the second round. Anaheim’s first-round losses to Detroit in 2013 and to wild-card Nashville this season were more embarrassing.
The Ducks won three playoff rounds in four seasons under Boudreau, never reaching the Stanley Cup Final with Murray’s talent-loaded rosters.
Boudreau is the second coach to fail to coax postseason poise out of Anaheim teams led by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the two fixtures on the Ducks’ roster since their only Stanley Cup title run in 2007. Perry didn’t score a goal in the entire seven-game series against Nashville, while Getzlaf failed to inspire his teammates to success as their captain.
Murray said he won’t take the “C” away from Getzlaf, but the new coach will have a say about his leadership structure around Getzlaf, Perry and center Ryan Kesler.
“There’s definite concerns in that area,” Murray said. “I think the core has to be held responsible, and they have to be better. Maybe I haven’t been hard enough on them in the last few years, but they’re going to hear some different words this time.”
Anaheim got off to a 1-7-2 start this season and struggled all the way to Christmas, but responded with an NHL-best 34-10-5 performance after the holiday break. Murray showed patience with Boudreau early this season, instead ripping his players for poor conditioning and for allowing contract distractions to slow their start.
But when that wasn’t rewarded with postseason success, Boudreau was the first to go.
Murray realizes he gave up on an elite coach likely to be unemployed only for as long as he chooses.
“Bruce is a hockey guy,” Murray said. “He knew.”