Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau has experienced quite a lot in his coaching career, and he shared some of those experiences -- along with his take on some of the current developments around the NHL -- in his recent appearance on the ESPN On Ice podcast with Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan. Here are the coach's thoughts on the new goalie equipment rules, how to reach today's young players, his relationship with new Wild GM Paul Fenton and more.
ESPN: You had to tell your team last week to get more pucks on net and shoot more. And lo and behold, the offense came. How maddening is it for you to keep doing this with teams?
Boudreau: You know what? It's funny, but you have to do it with every team, every year because these guys are so good, they think they can make every play. Sometimes they forget the guys they are playing against are really good, too. So you find out most of the goals are scored by rebounds and going to the net, and that's what you do, and that's how you score. And they needed a friendly reminder, and they found out it worked.
ESPN: We're only three weeks into the season, but are there any trends or story lines you see sticking this year?
Boudreau: The great lines in the league have really started out great. Whether it's the [Mark] Scheifele line in Winnipeg, the [Nathan] MacKinnon line, the [Evgeny] Kuznetsov line ... these guys have not taken a back seat. What I've noticed is sometimes it takes a while for the great players to get going because they've gone through the Finals or a long playoff run. But I've found the great players in this league have started off really great this year.
ESPN: What do you think of this offense we've seen so far?
Boudreau: Well, I haven't seen it on my team. I wouldn't mind getting eight goals one night or seven. It's been crazy. To go along with that, the other trend is the amount of shots of goal. There's been four or five games already where teams have put up 50 shots on goal. That's really different from normal circumstances.
ESPN: When you were coaching in Washington, you were playing a very offensive style, more than most teams were playing at that time. Eventually you were criticized for it, but do you think you were ahead of your time, do you feel like you were ahead of the curve in terms of the way you wanted to coach and the way the league plays now?
Boudreau: That's a tough question to answer because I've always felt, when I was a player, that if I was ever going to be a coach, I was going to be an aggressive coach and try to win the game instead of trying to not lose the game. I was really blessed during the years in Washington. I didn't change anything up that I did in the minors, even though in the minors we were always one of the top scoring teams as well. But when you have [Alex] Ovechkin, [Nicklas] Backstrom, [Sergei] Federov and [Mike] Green -- you can go down the list -- you're going to score. We just wanted to make sure we were playing in the other team's zone more than we were playing in our zone. So we took chances in their zone. We got pucks at the net, and everybody met at the net. And we scored a lot of goals. But when you have Alex scoring 50 and 60 goals every year, it's not hard.
ESPN: Everyone is talking about the new restrictions on goalie pads and goalies complaining about them. As a coach, what's your perspective?
Boudreau: You know what, it hasn't happened on our team. I haven't really heard ... I've heard about it, rumblings about it. Our two goalies have not made any hint about getting hurt more or anything else. [Devan] Dubnyk has been absolutely fantastic, so whatever he's wearing, I don't want him to take it off. I think sometimes they might be getting a little bit more hurt, but I don't think the league would put them in something that would potentially hurt them. Sometimes I think they're just trying to get back the older, bigger equipment.
ESPN: What is it about Eric Staal in your system that has allowed him to recapture the dominance he had when he was young?
Boudreau: I really don't know if it's the system. I think what happened in his latter years in Carolina is they were always rebuilding, and he wanted to be on a winner. And then they said, OK, you have to play with the young guys and bring them along. And now you're the older guy that's going to be the mentor, when he was still young enough to be the star. We gave him that opportunity to be the first-line center. Instead of giving him young players to play with, we gave him real good players to play with. Instead of putting him on left wing, we kept him at center, which is his natural position. So I think that's the big thing, and then mentally that really got him going. After that, he was really good.
ESPN: You got a new GM this year. How is your job different going from Chuck Fletcher to Paul Fenton?
Boudreau: I just think the questions are different. Everything else is the same. I still do whatever I'm doing. The questions are different, there are a few things he wants that Chuck didn't want, or Chuck wanted different things than Paul wants, and you adjust. But other than that, the communication is really good, and everything else is going well.
ESPN: How do you respond to the perception that when a new GM comes in, he's going to eventually want his own coach?
Boudreau: It's not like I haven't been fired before. Just roll with it. I've just got to do my job, and hopefully I do it well, but listen: I was in the minors for 33 years, so I'm sort of used to anything now.
ESPN: Well, the only time you've been fired was when you were not on a 100-point pace. So just stay on a 100-point pace, and you're fine ...
Boudreau: And you know, the one in Washington, we were, we actually were on a 160-point pace, we were 7-0 to start the year. Then we lost a couple in a row, I got fired, and that was that.
ESPN: Speaking of the Caps, did you have contact with any of the guys you coached after they won the Cup?
Boudreau: No, I haven't had that. I'm looking forward to seeing them, though, and congratulating them when we see them next month.
ESPN: What did you make of that celebration? Did you know they had it in them?
Boudreau: Had it in them? They've been waiting to explode for 10 years! They were always fun-loving and great like that. The first couple years, we had the greatest goal celebrations of anybody. These guys deserved it, whatever they did, they stayed out of trouble and had so much fun. And that's what winning is all about.
ESPN: How do you deal with younger guys? Are younger guys now different than when Ovi and Backstrom were younger?
Boudreau: Yeah, I think so. They change. But I try to treat them the same. Maybe after I talk to them, they say, 'What the hell is he talking about? I don't understand a word he's saying.' But I think I treat them the same. I always thought of myself, even though I'm getting older, as young-minded. I think a lot the way they think. I think that's one of the things I've done that I've done well and communicate with the younger guys just as well as I do the older guys.
ESPN: What's the biggest challenge for you this season?
Boudreau: We need to stay healthy. We didn't have Zach [Parise] for the first 40 games last year. We didn't have Nino [Niederreiter] and Charlie [Coyle] and Sutes [Ryan Suter] at the end, and [Jared] Spurgeon missed 20 games. These are really great players. If we can stay healthy, I think we can surprise a lot of teams.
ESPN: What do you do when you're not coaching or thinking about hockey? Are you watching anything? Reading?
Boudreau: I will watch WWF matches from the '80s and '90s. I have YouTube. During the winter, I can't wait to just watch hockey at night. I watch every game, every night. I know it's stupid, and I think my wife doesn't like it too much sometimes, but it is what it is right now.
ESPN: Is there a team other than your own that you enjoy watching?
Boudreau: Right now, I'm really focused on the Central Division teams. Or if Washington is playing or Anaheim, I stay up and watch them all the time. Just old habits never die.
ESPN: Are you upset the Blackhawks aren't dead yet?
Boudreau: No, no [laughs]. Now that Corey Crawford is there, they're going to be a good team until the very end.