Though some may argue his tenure as Minnesota Wild head coach won't officially begin until Sept. 26 (the Wild's first preseason game), or Oct. 13 (Minnesota's regular season opener), Bruce Boudreau is undoubtedly already influencing his new team.
Boudreau, who leads all active NHL coaches in winning percentage, has brought a reputation with him to Minnesota befitting of the popular kid in the lunchroom.
He was able to lure two top assistants in Scott Stevens and John Anderson to the State of Hockey, and July 1, when free agency opened, forwards Eric Staal and Chris Stewart, who signed with Minnesota, each cited Boudreau in their respective thought processes.
"[Boudreau] had some different opportunities elsewhere when he was hired in Minnesota, and his message (to me) was they want to win, and I want to win, and that’s why he chose to go there," Staal said. "For me, it’s the same. I wanted to go to a team and an organization that is willing do whatever it takes and is committed to winning."
Staal and Boudreau are used to going head-to-head in the NHL's former southeast division, where Staal was an All-Star on the Hurricanes, and Boudreau led the Capitals to a President's Trophy in 2010.
"For me, talking to him, hearing what he has to say, I’ve played against Bruce’s teams for a number of years, and feel like I already know him just because of the way we've kind of grown up over the past couple of years," Staal said. "The opportunity was too good for me to pass up, and the chance to play for him and with some of the other players there is something I'm looking forward to."
Stewart, who isn’t new to the Wild, also isn't new to Boudreau. When he signed with the Anaheim Ducks last season, Boudreau was the head coach.
A quick chat with Boudreau during the NHL's shopping period prior to free agency's kickoff at noon ET July 1 told all Stewart he needed to know.
"I got on the phone with Bruce, and talked to him a couple of days ago, and as soon as I got off the phone with him, it felt right," Stewart said. "That was kind of where my heart was at before I got into the contract situation."
This was, to a tee, what General Manager Chuck Fletcher forecasted and hoped for when he introduced Boudreau to the media as the Wild's new head coach. In Boudreau, Fletcher said, the Wild was getting a proven winner that would command respect and carry a winning reputation to Saint Paul.
"Bruce has that ability to convince the players, to get the players, to encourage the players, to prod the players to execute on a consistent basis," Fletcher said back in May on the Xcel Energy Center arena floor. "If we do that, we're a good hockey team, and can even become very good."