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Boudreau aims to bring Stanley Cup to State of Hockey

New Wild coach says roster mix of veteran, younger players is exciting

by Dan Myers / Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Bruce Boudreau's professional hockey career has come full circle. 

Boudreau was introduced as the fourth full-time coach of the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday on the same ground where he played 30 games with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association as a 21-year old during the 1975-76 season.

More than 40 years have passed since Boudreau called the area home. The St. Paul Civic Center, home of the Fighting Saints, was demolished nearly two decades ago to make room for Xcel Energy Center.

The opportunity to come back was one Boudreau thought about after being fired as coach of the Anaheim Ducks on April 29.

"It's a complete honor for me to be able to come here and coach in the State of Hockey," Boudreau said. "It's something that I've looked forward to, for a hockey market like this, to come in with, I think, a team that has always been a tough opponent for any team that I've ever coached. Going forward, I think we're going to be even better."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Opening Statement - 5/10/16

Boudreau said his goal is clear.

"I hope I can bring a Stanley Cup to this state," he said.

Doing that could help him reach another goal: To make the Wild his final NHL job.

"I told my wife, 'This is the last place I'm going,'" the 61-year-old said. "I told my wife I'm going to stay here for as long as they want me, and I hope it's a long time."

The process of becoming coach of the Wild came together quickly.

He was fired by the Ducks on a Friday, first spoke on the phone with Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher the following morning, and interviewed with Minnesota three days later, on May 3. He agreed to a four-year contract Saturday.

Since being hired as interim coach of the Washington Capitals in November 2007, Boudreau has spent a total of 10 days without a job.

"When I get fired, my wife says, 'You better get a job in a hurry.' She doesn't want me hanging around the house," Boudreau said. "When you love the game and you want to be at the office all the time, you want to find work as quick as you can. I'm grateful and blessed that I was able to get a job quick. I would go nuts not knowing it."

Video: Chuck Fletcher Opening Statement - 5/10/16

Boudreau was one of three candidates Fletcher interviewed. He spoke with former Wild coach John Torchetti on May 2 and interviewed former Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle last Thursday. Boudreau was offered the job last weekend.

"Once Bruce became available and we had a chance to meet, it mostly became about, 'Can we get him signed?'" Fletcher said. "It's very rare that you get an opportunity to sign a coach with his credentials."

Torchetti replaced Mike Yeo on Feb. 13 and coached the Wild to a 15-11-1 record and the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Minnesota lost to the Dallas Stars in six games in the Western Conference First Round.

"The conversation with [Torchetti] was hard," Fletcher said. "He was disappointed; he wanted to be the head coach [of the Wild] and that's what drives him. But he's assessing his options. If he wants to remain with the organization, I'd love to have him.

"He did a great job and bailed us out of a tough situation [thsi season], and did a great job of pushing and pulling the players into the playoffs and got them to buy in and play hard. But when [someone] like [Boudreau] becomes available, it's tough to [ignore]."

Among NHL coaches with at least 500 games, Boudreau's winning percentage of .659 is the highest. Earlier this season, he became the fastest NHL coach to 400 victories, getting there in 663 games.

Where Boudreau has yet to experience sustained success is in the playoffs, where he has a 41-39 record. He coached a team to the conference finals once, with the Ducks last season.

Included in that record is a 1-7 mark in Game 7s.

"Unfortunately Game 7s sometimes are a crapshoot, and I knew what was going to happen if we didn't win Game 7 (in Anaheim)," Boudreau said. "But I believe good things happen to people that work hard. And even though the one door closed, the other one's opening, and it's a great new adventure and I look forward to it."

The WIld are one of seven teams to have made the playoffs in four straight seasons. They have not advanced past the second round since 2003.

Minnesota has a number of established veterans. But left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter each will be 32 years old by the middle of next season, and forwards Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville are 33. But the Wild also have more than a dozen players who should be on next season's roster who will begin the season age 26 or younger.

It will be up to Boudreau to find the right mix of veterans and young players to create an environment that produces more consistent results during the regular season.

"[The younger players are] going to get better and better," Boudreau said. "There is room to grow. The established players we have are all winners. Mikko, Zach and Ryan are not only guys who have won, but they have a burning desire to win. They will do what it takes to win and those are guys I'm looking forward to ... I'll be leaning on them, talking to them a lot."

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