Advertisement

Struggling Vancouver Canucks hope Boudreau can kickstart dismal season

Click to play video: 'Aquilini talks changes to top Canucks staff after weekend shakeup' Aquilini talks changes to top Canucks staff after weekend shakeup
Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is opening up about the big changes announced over the weekend for the top leadership team, including the firing of the team’s head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning. Squire Barnes reports – Dec 6, 2021

Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini says he may have been “too patient” in waiting for the struggling NHL team to turn its season around.

His patience ran out Sunday as the team cleaned house, firing general manager Jim Benning, assistant manager Jim Weisbrod, head coach Travis Green and assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner.

“These are difficult decisions. These are not easy. I mean, to fire everybody at the same time, that’s a hard thing to do and maybe I was a little bit too patient,” Aquilini told reporters Monday.

“I was hoping for a turnaround. We were losing these games by one goal and maybe I was too optimistic, and so we made the change when we made the change.”

Read more: Struggling Canucks fire GM Jim Benning, head coach Travis Green

Story continues below advertisement

The changes followed a dismal start to the season. Vancouver sits last in the Pacific Division with an 8-15-2 record.

Stan Smyl, a former Canucks right-winger who was promoted from senior adviser to interim general manager on Sunday, said the moves send the right message to a locker room that was waiting for something to happen.

“Things weren’t working. Was it the decision on the GM? Was it the decision on a coach? We didn’t have all those answers and the players were looking around for answers, and what happens when you get to this point is you start finger pointing,” he said.

“Bottom line, our performance this season hasn’t been good enough. We do have some talented young players and a good core to build around, but we need to be better.”

Click to play video: 'Stan Smyl named interim GM, Bruce Boudreau head coach as Vancouver Canucks make changes' Stan Smyl named interim GM, Bruce Boudreau head coach as Vancouver Canucks make changes
Stan Smyl named interim GM, Bruce Boudreau head coach as Vancouver Canucks make changes – Dec 6, 2021

The search for new hockey operations leadership is underway, Aquilini said, and “everything is on the table,” including potentially hiring both a GM and a president.

Story continues below advertisement

Right now, though, he wants to see his team get back in the win column.

“I know our fans and the media are frustrated and unhappy. But I assure you that no one is more frustrated and unhappy than me and my family,” Aquilini said. “I’m also disappointed and surprised. In the off-season, we believed we’d have a much better team than what we’ve been seeing, that we’d have a better competitive team this year.”

Read more: A look at the NHL’s surprises, disappointments so far after a quarter of season has been played

The Canucks replaced Green with Bruce Boudreau, signing the veteran NHL coach to a deal through the 2022-23 season.

The 66-year-old Toronto native has served as head coach for the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild. He won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach in 2008 when he took over the floundering Capitals and guided them through a bounce back season.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Canucks reveal special Diwali-themed warmup jersey' Vancouver Canucks reveal special Diwali-themed warmup jersey
Vancouver Canucks reveal special Diwali-themed warmup jersey – Nov 4, 2021

Aquilini said Smyl suggested Boudreau as a replacement and after some discussions, Aquilini made the coach an offer.

Story continues below advertisement

“Bruce is a veteran coach, he’s very experienced, his record speaks for itself. He’s had a lot of success in these situations and we just felt that it was the right time,” Aquilini said. “I think we want to get back to being a competitive team again. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Read more: Call of the Wilde: The Montreal Canadiens’ future begins to take shape

Fired by the Wild in February 2020, Boudreau said he’s been dying to get back behind an NHL bench.

“When approached (by Vancouver), I thought ‘This is perfect,'” he said. “I’ve always wanted to coach in Canada and so this was going to be a great opportunity and I jumped at it.”

The coach said he wants the Canucks to be an aggressive offensive team, but one that’s responsible in its own zone, too.

He recognizes that Vancouver has areas where it needs to improve, but he sees promise in the team’s young stars — even those who have underperformed so far this season.

Click to play video: 'B.C.-born Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price enters NHL player assistance program' B.C.-born Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price enters NHL player assistance program
B.C.-born Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price enters NHL player assistance program – Oct 7, 2021

“As far as I’m concerned, all of these guys have opportunities right now to start over,” he said. “I’m not going to look at somebody and say ‘Geez, you weren’t very good for the first 15 games so you’re not going to get a chance to play.’ It’s ”This is what you’re supposed to be. Let’s see what you’ve got.'”

Story continues below advertisement

Boudreau got on the ice with his new group Monday morning. Canucks captain Bo Horvat said he brought “a lot of positive energy” and some new ideas, including changes the team looked to implement Monday night when they hosted the L.A. Kings.

“Our team needed a spark,” Horvat said. “It brings us new life. But at the same time, we have to go out there and prove it now.”

Read more: Canucks can finally play to a full house in Rogers Arena. What will it be like for fans?

A fresh voice can always help out in the locker room, said left-winger Tanner Pearson.

“Hopefully getting (Boudreau) in here, we can take a deep breath and maybe start from scratch, maybe not worry about the last 25 games,” he said. “Yeah, we’re in the hole a bit but we can get ourselves out by being positive.”

While Boudreau’s excited about the new challenge, he isn’t looking too far into the future just yet. Instead, he said he’s set small goals for the team, starting with collecting more wins than losses in this week’s homestand.

“You’d really like to make it a winning team from here on in. And to get the guys happy, to get the fan base happy again with them winning,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“Wherever that leads, that leads. We just don’t want things to continue what they’re doing what they’re doing. If it ends up getting into a playoff spot, fine and dandy. That’s our ultimate goal for everybody.”

Sponsored content