Monday, January 23, 2023

Weekend rankings: The Bruce Boudreau debacle gets a fittingly pathetic final chapter

No bonus top five this week because I’m cranky. Instead, I’m going to ask you to let me vent for a bit.

I’m a bit of an NHL history buff. You may have picked up on that based on roughly half the columns I post here. I also wrote a book on the subject. I’m not an expert, but I feel like I know my stuff.

I’ve never seen anything like this Bruce Boudreau story.

Never. And I lived through the era of Harold Ballard, an owner so mean and awful that he once asked Roger Neilson to wear a paper bag over his head. Neilson told him to get stuffed, and Ballard backed down, because even the worst of the worst are still capable of realizing when they've gone too far.

The Canucks went too far. Way too far. Their treatment of Boudreau over the last few months went from comical to bizarre to outright cruel, which is where it’s been for weeks now. Yesterday’s announcement of the inevitable was just one last act in a bad farce. The way this was handled makes Gerard Gallant’s infamous taxi look like a stretch limo.

Look, coaches get fired. It’s never pleasant, but it happens, to almost everyone, and it’s part of the game. You could absolutely make the case that Boudreau deserved a pink slip based on how this season went, or at least that the coach taking the fall for a flawed roster would be standard operating procedure in plenty of places around the league. That’s fine. Maybe Rick Tocchet will be the better fit.

But there’s no reason to do it like this. None. We’ve known the coaching change was coming. We knew who’d be replacing him. The exact date it would happen leaked out a while ago. And yet the team still sent Boudreau out there, night after night, as dead coach walking. Just fire him! If Tocchet can’t take the job right away because of TV commitments or whatever, then let Mike Yeo run the bench for a few games on an interim basis. There’s no reason to let a respected coach with over 600 career wins who almost saved your season last year twist in the wind like this. No reason to have Jim Rutherford periodically show up to kick him when he’s down. No reason to send him out there for what everyone knew would be his final games, then watch him have to clarify to the media that he hadn’t actually been fired yet.

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