After weeks of speculation, the Vancouver Canucks have fired head coach Bruce Boudreau.
The Canucks announced the move Sunday, saying in a statement that the 68-year-old NHL veteran coach was replaced by Rick Tocchet, former head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes.
“Rick Tocchet brings a tremendous amount of knowledge to this team, both from a coach and player perspective,” general manager Partik Allvin said in a statement. “He has had more than two decades of coaching experience, guiding teams of various styles. As a player, he displayed a high level of character, grit and intensity, while posting impressive offensive numbers.”
Assistant coach Trent Cull was also fired.
The team has added Adam Foote as assistant coach and Sergei Gonchar as defensive development coach.
“Both individuals enjoyed long and successful careers as NHL defensemen and together they bring a wide range of experience on both sides of the puck,” Allvin said.
“Tocchet, Foote and Gonchar bring a championship pedigree to the organization and we look forward to welcoming them to Vancouver.”
The changes come after the Edmonton Oilers defeated Vancouver 4-2 on Saturday, marking the Canucks’ third straight loss and ninth in the last 10 games.
Vancouver (18-25-3) has given up multigoal leads in eight losses this season and sits sixth in the Pacific Division, 14 points shy of a playoff spot.
Boudreau was hired on December 6, 2021, replacing former head coach Travis Green. Under Boudreau, Vancouver went 32-15-10 to close out the season and missed the postseason by five points.
Boudreau, 68, has a 617-342-128 coaching record over 15 seasons.
There has long been talk that the Canucks were planning a coaching change, and the coach took time out after Saturday’s loss to stand on the bench and applaud the crowd as they chanted “Bruce, there he is!” to the tune of “Whoomp! (There it is)” by Tag Team.
“I just wanted to savor looking at the stands because who knows if I’ll ever get this opportunity again,” he said. “And just keep it in my mind and memory, let it burn there forever.”
CLOCK | Boudreau greets the Vancouver crowd at the final game with the Canucks:
Canucks defenseman Luke Schenn said players continued to compete for Boudreau despite an abundance of outside noise and a series of disappointing results.
“Obviously we feel we let him down in the room. He deserves better. I think that’s up to us as players,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve played a long time and I’ve been through, I don’t know, a handful of coaching changes. I don’t think that was the case here.
“Guys like to play for Bruce and in this room, we felt like we let him down. We wanted to keep trying to do better for him, and unfortunately, too many losses pile up.”
After last season’s success, expectations were high for the Canucks heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
“Not making the playoffs would be a disaster for us,” Boudreau said before training camp.
“But to get to the playoffs we have to do better and be more consistent over 82 games, not just 56 games or whatever the number is. I would call it a failure if we didn’t meet our goals this year.”
The Canucks lost their first seven games of the season and made history by becoming the first NHL team to lose their first four games and give up multi-point leads in each.
While Vancouver always found ways to score, the team also allowed an average of 3.96 goals per game. The Canucks’ penalty kick has been a drag, operating at a league-worst 65.9 percent.
Boudreau said the group is constantly working on defense in practice.
“That’s all we really work for,” he said after a 5-4 loss to Las Vegas in November. “We don’t work too much in attack because we are scoring enough goals, but we work in defence. And that obviously still needs more work.”
In late October, Allvin told reporters that Boudreau still had his support, but weeks later, Jim Rutherford, the team’s president of hockey operations, publicly criticized the team’s performance.
“If we were playing in a really strong structure, it would be easier for our defense to play,” he told a Vancouver radio station on November 7. “And it wouldn’t matter who was on our defense. But right now, we don’t have that strong structure and we need to change the composition of our defense.”
Vancouver hired Boudreau before either Rutherford or Allvin took over his Vancouver duties.
The coach said on Saturday that he believed his tenure was over after “certain things were said” in November.
“And it wasn’t. We moved on. We moved on,” Boudreau said. This last section was quite hard. The boys gave it their all. I’m very proud of them.”
Boudreau, a former center for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks, previously coached the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild. He won the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s best bench manager in 2008.
When asked after the Canucks’ season opener how the long streak was affecting him mentally, Boudreau said losing was nothing new.
“I’ve been through all this before. You try to stay calm,” he said. I try not to read anything [the media] he writes, try not to watch too much TV, other than the game itself, and just stay in my little area and do what we do to prepare for the games.
“And I’ve been through this so many times that I know that if we keep doing the right things and stay optimistic about it, good things will always happen.”
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