ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The loyalty that Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray showed Randy Carlyle was extraordinary in the modern NHL.
The Ducks stumbled out of the gate year after year following their 2007 Stanley Cup run and even missed the playoffs in 2010. Yet Murray not only stood behind Carlyle through every crisis, he gave him a three-year contract extension in August to keep him behind the bench through 2014.
But Murray finally had to make one of the most difficult decisions of his executive career after disconcerting losses to Chicago and Toronto last week that were perhaps the worst of Carlyle's seven-year tenure.
"The body language and how we were losing, it hadn't been there before," Murray said. "They didn't seem to believe in themselves anymore, and I had never seen that before in the six years we've been here.
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That new direction officially got under way when former Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau stepped into Carlyle's shoes. Boudreau was formally introduced Thursday as Anaheim's seventh coach -- three days after being fired in Washington. He signed a two-year deal to complete a whirlwind 48 hours in which he spoke with Murray on the East Coast and flew to California on Wednesday night.
The Ducks announced the coaching change an hour after Wednesday's 4-1 victory against Montreal -- and on Thursday morning, Boudreau was directing practice drills in a bright orange Ducks cap, preparing for Friday's game against Philadelphia. Ironically, he made his NHL coaching debut with the Caps against the Flyers just over four years ago.
"It's been a wild ride in the last week for me as well," Boudreau said. "If I didn't believe that this was the team that had the possibilities and the makings of something special, I would have sat around and waited. I don't think opportunities like this come around every day.
"I talked to my wife and said I think we should jump at this. … I thought this was a chance that I wouldn't get again."
Murray said he called Washington GM George McPhee "immediately" to inquire about Boudreau and wanted to "get a sense in his voice if he was ready to go right back at it or not. That was important to me."
By making a coaching change instead of a big-name trade, Murray gave a vote of confidence to a team that had two victories in its last 18 games and ranks 29th in scoring at 2.21 goals a game despite having some of the top offensive talent in the NHL.
"I truly believe in this group," Murray said. "If I didn't believe in the group, I would have gone in a totally different direction and blow it all up and start over, but I don't believe in that. I think we have the talent right here that can lead us in the right direction."
Boudreau brings an affable personality and a record of quick results to a franchise that he has little connection to outside of a longstanding friendship with Murray.
Boudreau was hired by Washington midway through the 2007-08 season and went on to capture the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year. He became the fastest coach in modern NHL history to win 200 games, and he recorded more wins (184) in his first 300 NHL games than any other coach.
Boudreau spent nine seasons coaching in the AHL and led Hershey to the Eastern Conference championship and Calder Cup Finals in 2005-07, winning the title in 2006.
Nicknamed "Gabby" for his chatty persona, Boudreau revealed multiple sides of his personality in the HBO series "24/7" in which his repeated expletives earned him a reprimand from his mother. His colorful background notably includes a role in the famous hockey film "Slap Shot."
But Boudreau is more recently known for the high-octane offense he ran in Washington with the likes of Alex Ovechkin. He now has Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, captain Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne at his disposal.
"They have some players in really prominent role positions that you need to be a good team," Boudreau said. "Not taking anything away from Randy … it's just (that) if we do it together we should hopefully make strides every night and every day. It's going to take time, but I think it could be done over the next four months."
Boudreau said the situation is different from when took the Washington job -- his first NHL gig -- because the Capitals at that time were beaten down for a long period. For as bad as this season has spiraled, Anaheim's players have generally known success.
"They haven't lost," Boudreau said. "They've been a really good team. They just sort of lost their way a little bit. I told them this morning that I believe in them. I think they're really good team. I wouldn't have done this if I didn't believe that have a really good shot at doing a lot of good things this year. I want them to believe in themselves. And if they do, good things can happen."
Good things happened when former GM Brian Burke hired Carlyle in August 2005 after he tried unsuccessfully to retain former coach Mike Babcock. It turned out to be one of the most important moves in franchise history.
After he took the Ducks to the 2006 Western Conference finals in his first season, Carlyle helped establish the franchise with its first Stanley Cup championship in 2007 with arguably one of the best teams in the modern era.
Carlyle's teams won 42 or more games in six seasons, including a club record 48 in 2007-08. Among active coaches, only Babcock has more playoff victories than Carlyle's 36, and his 273-182-61 record is the best in franchise history.
Gruff and emotional, Carlyle was often candid in his critiques of his team but he typically got them on the right track after continued lackluster starts. All of that made it that much more difficult for Murray to fire his friend.
"I think he's very sad," Murray said of Carlyle's reaction when he told him on Wednesday night.
"Unfortunately this is a part of our business…It happens. It's not his fault. It's just the way it goes. He's not a bad coach. He's not a bad person. It just happens."
One of Carlyle's last-gasp moves was breaking up the top line of Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry. Boudreau had the trio together again at Thursday's practice, and he tweaked the other lines as well.
Ryan confirmed that Murray told him that the trade speculation surrounding Ryan would settle down while the team moves forward.
That puts the onus on Boudreau to make the same kind of turnaround that he failed to do in Washington. Boudreau was quick to address the perception that he couldn't get along with Ovechkin and the team's other star players.
"I told George (McPhee) that I tried everything that I knew with this group right now and it wasn't' working right now," Boudreau said. "It doesn't mean it wouldn't work a week from now. It just didn't work right then."
Boudreau was also asked about what to expect from his coaching style, if there would be defenseman jumping into the play and a freewheeling attack.
"I like to walk before I can run a little bit," Boudreau said. "It doesn't matter if it's 8-7 or 2-1. I just want to win. If you know me, losing grates on me quite a lot. I think in assessing where your strengths are and go to your strengths."
Brad Lauer was added as an assistant coach, and Murray said another staff position could be announced soon.
Anaheim also fired assistants Mike Foligno, who was in charge of their special teams and helped develop the club's younger players, and Dave Farrish, who was hired with Carlyle and played a role an integral role in the team's Cup run and playoff success.
Anaheim owners Henry and Susan Samueli, who have typically stayed out of the public eye in personnel matters, issued a statement Thursday:
"We would like to offer heartfelt thanks to Randy Carlyle and his staff on their tremendous contributions to the Anaheim Ducks. In addition to being the longest tenured and most successful coach in club history, Randy led the team with unquestioned passion and character.
"We will fondly remember his leadership en route to the 2007 Stanley Cup championship, along with thrilling playoff runs in 2006 and 2009. We wish him well and are confident he will continue his successful coaching career in the NHL.
"These moves are very difficult, but we respect Bob Murray's decision and are optimistic we can turn this season around led by Bruce and his staff."