With six weeks remaining in the offseason, Wild.com's Dan Myers caught up with all three head coaches in the Wild organization. Last week, he chatted with Allen Americans coach Steve Martinson and Iowa Wild coach Tim Army.
In the final installment of the series, he chatted with Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau on Wednesday.
Boudreau, who begins his fourth season as the Wild's coach, is coming off a season in which his club missed the playoffs for the first time in his career (in a full season), making for a longer-than-usual offseason that has the veteran coach itching to begin the new campaign.
Dan Myers: Firstly, you had to be as surprised as anyone when the news came down last week that the Wild was making a change at the general manager position?
Bruce Boudreau: Any time anybody gets let go, you're surprised. The only timing that anyone ever thinks about it is the day after the season ends, or within a week after the season ends. Any other time to me is a surprise.
DM: After missing the playoffs, how much has this summer just dragged on even more than usual?
BB: It absolutely has. It's a bitter pill to swallow. It's something that I never want to happen again and I think we're taking steps to make sure that it never does. A little bit has to do with luck and injuries, but it makes for an awful long summer, and as much as you like summer, it's not what you want when you're a hockey coach. I don't know what else to say, other than I've hated it and it's a feeling I don't want to have to happen again.
DM: When you were going through your postseason meetings and just unpacking what happened last spring, what were some of the common threads on why last season went the way it did?
BB: Our lack of scoring was probably the biggest difference I think, from the two previous teams we'd had. It wasn't any one thing. You can take Jason Zucker and say he had an off year production wise, but he had as many chances as he's had in the previous years, he just hit 13 more posts than he did the year before. Things just weren't going in and that happens.
A lot of people are counting us out, and that's great. I'm really happy they are counting us out because I think we're going to come more mad and with a chip on our shoulders. We've got a lot to prove to a lot of people and I think we're going to do it.
DM: You've said in the past that your hockey school up in St. Catherines is sort of the unofficial start of hockey season for you. You're up there right now. How's it going?
BB: It's going pretty good actually. I took the afternoon off, but they've had it running pretty good and I had the annual golf game with the guys I used to be members with when I was up here. Being at the school the first two days, there's a ton of kids, but it's really well organized, as usual, and they're all ready to go. It's been fun.
DM: Your son, Brady, runs a satellite camp in Coon Rapids coming up later this month. It's the second year he's done that. How is it looking?
BB: We're still taking sign ups but it's almost full. There's only one ice rink, so there's only so many kids you can have participate. I think he targets about 70 kids and right now we have between 60 and 65 signed up. (For more information on the camp or to get one of the few remaining spots available, click here)
DM: As you look forward to the coming season, you've coached against Mats Zuccarello for a lot of years. What do you like about what he can bring to your top-6 forward group this season?
BB: He competes. He can make a play and he's one of the few guys that can play his off-side, come across and make a play. He's not the biggest guy, but I can picture whomever is on the left side of that line getting a lot of opportunities from him to make that play and get scoring chances.
I think our balance is really good. Maybe we have more left-handed shots than we want to, but at the same time, Zuccarello is a guy that can play the off-side and it doesn't hurt him.
DM: In Ryan Hartman, do you see a guy who has some offensive upside? He scored 19 goals in his first full year in the NHL.
BB: I really do, and I go back to the balance again, I think it's strong. I think Marcus Foligno is going to have a really good year. If you look at our centers right now, I don't know who is going to be that fourth-line guy, but our centers are [Eric] Staal, Mikko [Koivu], [Joel] Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin. So as we sit here right now, you know somebody with a lot of talent is going to be in that spot.
DM: Staal scored 22 goals last year, down from 42 the year before. Do you think it's realistic that he gets back to a goal total somewhere in between those numbers? Perhaps 25-30, is that reasonable?
BB: I think it is, for me. There's a lot of things that happened ... he had 22 goals, but I think he very easily could have had 27 or 28. If you had asked us three years ago if Eric Staal averaged 28 goals per year for his first three years here, would it be successful? And we would be doing cartwheels.
I remember when [former Wild GM] Chuck [Fletcher] signed him, we said if he could get us 40-50 points for us, that would be great for him, and he's exceeded that every year.
DM: For one reason or another, it seemed like Jason Zucker's name was constantly being thrown out in trade rumors last season. With a new GM on the way and Zucker looking a little more secure in his spot with this team, do you think that could have a positive effect on what he brings to the club this season?
BB: I absolutely think so. Jason is a 30-goal scorer in my mind, he's a top-6 forward in my mind and he doesn't have that cloud hanging over his head anymore. I think that relief in and of itself is going to make for an excited, exuberant Zuck and he's going to play that way.
DM: When you remember back to the start of the year Matt Dumba had in 2018-19, how excited are you to see him come back and try and pick up where he left off coming off the injury?
BB: He's a difference maker, 100 percent. And a right-handed shot defenseman ... I just hope that he can stay healthy and if he does, I think you're going to see a different team. When he left, I think we were second in the League in points from the defense, and I don't know where we ended up, but I know it wasn't in the top-10 (Minnesota's 150 points were 21st in the NHL).
DM: You've always said during your time here that when those top-4 defensemen are intact, you can play with anyone. Do you think having all four of those guys healthy will give you that chance to sneak up on some people?
BB: I do. We had one of the best defensive teams in the League with those guys in. And with another year of [Greg] Pateryn and another year of experience for Nick Seeler, Brad Hunt back pushing those guys, I think we're really going to surprise a lot of people.