Turmoil in Vancouver

Story posted January 24, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Owen Gelber

It has been quite the bumpy season for the Vancouver Canucks. Through 46 games, head coach Bruce Boudreau’s team has gone 18-25-3, dropping eight of their last 10 in his second season in Western Canada.

Boudreau has served as a head coach in the NHL since 2007, most recently getting the job in Vancouver at the beginning of the 2021-2022 season.

It’s important to note that the Canucks’ owners hired Boudreau, which is not a common practice across the league. Typically, general managers are in charge of selecting a new head coach, but at the time, the Canucks lacked a general manager after Jim Benning was fired.

Regardless, Bruce is a well-respected coach and has been behind the bench of the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild previously in his career. He currently sits at 20th in all-time wins across NHL head coaches and has led those three teams to 10 out of a possible 16 playoffs.

In his first season in Vancouver, fans had high hopes that Boudreau could help their team get back to the postseason, but the Canucks only managed to teeter-totter above .500 and failed to make the playoffs with a final record of 40-30-12.

Following the season, Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations, Jim Rutherford hoped to bring in a new head coach but was unaware that the contract tenured to Boudreau from team ownership included a two-year deal and had not expired yet.

The president went on to tell CBC’s After Hours, “It was my understanding that he was going to get a contract for just last year. He got a contract really for two years, and so he’s still got his contract. It wasn’t that we extended him one year, it was that we just lived by the contract he had,” so Rutherford was forced to stick with Boudreau for the start of the next season.

Although Boudreau would remain for another season, Rutherford and the Canucks organization were eager to give the city of Vancouver their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2011, and hang their first-ever Stanley Cup Championship banner in the rafters of Rogers Arena.

Unfortunately, the team had an abysmal start to the season, losing their first seven games, giving up multi-goal leads during the skid, and things haven’t gotten much better more than halfway through the season.

Jim Rutherford was quick to point his finger at Boudreau, publicly stating, “At this point, I would have expected better. I didn’t like our training camp and we continued into the early part of the season the same way as our training camp was. In order for us to become a better team, we have to play with a stronger system and really be more accountable for some of the things that some of the players are struggling with.”

The president threw his head coach on the hot seat, insisting the lack of intensity during training camp and poor structure implemented by Boudreau has led to a lack of bottom six production, thus ramping up the turmoil in Vancouver.

Boudreau began to question his future in Vancouver as the team entered their toughest 12-game stretch midway through the season, telling his coaching staff, “I would tell the other coaches that we've got 12 games against the best teams in the league. If we don't do good, it's gonna be for sure (getting fired) after this because our schedule lightens up a lot right now.”

His speculations became a reality, as he was let go on Jan. 22, following a 1-10-1 run during that 12-game span. Rutherford instantly appointed Rick Tocchet as the team’s next head coach.

After being let go, Boudreau told the media that the outside noise caused by the controversy crept into the Canucks’ locker room during the season and was no help to an already struggling team. He went on to say, “In between periods, it was like trying to get blood out of a stone. I mean, they wanted to go, but they just didn't have that energy that they had been bringing to games every night.”

Current Avalanche winger, Andrew Cogliano, a former player of Boudreau’s in Anaheim told the press “...I don't think it's warranted,” adding, "He's done a good job throughout the league. We had a lot of success in Anaheim and I attribute a lot of my success in the league to him. I love him.”

Boudreau was truly a fan-favorite in Vancouver and fans made sure to let him know in Saturday’s game against Edmonton, echoing “Bruce there it is!” Chants down from the stands, which visibly choked up the head coach in the third period of what would be his final game in Rogers Arena.

Sadly, this wouldn’t be the end of the turmoil in Vancouver as Trent Cull, Boudreau’s assistant coach was relieved of his duties simultaneously to Boudreau and immediately replaced by former Avalanche defenseman, Adam Foote.
Canucks players have stayed extremely quiet on the matter, which has caused an eerie silence amidst their organization falling into disarray.

As the trade deadline approaches, fans fear that not only will the Canucks finish this season at the bottom of the standings, but they will finish without their head coach, potentially without their beloved captain, Bo Horvat, and two other top six forwards, Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller all at the expense of an unrelenting management who’s overly eager for immediate success.

Since Boudreau’s firing, there has been an outpouring of scrutiny towards Rutherford and the Canucks organization from the public for how poorly they handled the situation. In response to the turbulence, Rutherford met with the press and apologized for how he handled things, announcing, “I’ve decided that I need to zip it,” adding, "Part of this process, and I will apologize to Bruce for this, is probably in my interviews over the course of the season, when people ask me a question, I'm probably too direct and too honest.”

Rutherford continued to speak with the media, revealing that he would take a step back and let general manager Patrick Allvin handle the talking and decide on any future changes to the organization for the time being.

Not only did Rutherford throw his head coach under the bus, he handled things in such a way that the entire league has their eyes on the Canucks organization and gave the world a glimpse into how cruel their management really is.
With Vancouver being so far out in the standings and a front-office in shambles, it’ll be harder than ever for the Canucks to get within a sniff of the playoffs as a member of the ever-competitive Pacific Division, shared with two of the league's top teams- The Seattle Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights.

This entire situation has not been a good look for the Vancouver Canucks, but luckily for the Canuck fans, it can’t get much worse than this.

As for Bruce Boudreau, he’s made it clear that he will not comment on his relationship with Jim Rutherford, but he would like to coach in the NHL again, saying, "I could have gone back to work yesterday."

Owen Gelber is a first-year majoring in broadcast-journalism. To contact him, email omg5144@psu.edu