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Boudreau back as Canucks coach? Yes, but give it a few days

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Vancouver Canucks, Bruce Boudreau
Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau and President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford.

There’s a dream sequence for Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, not that he’d wish ill will on anyone, because he wouldn’t.

But if the Toronto Maple Leafs were to lose in the first round of the playoffs once again, and the organization then decided to move on from head coach Sheldon Keefe, and then they offered ‘Gabby’ the gig, he’d be out whatever door in a heartbeat.

That’s conflicted thinking considering Boudreau is rooting for his hometown team, and ‘not bloody likely’ even if Toronto’s first round series goes south, as Keefe signed a two-year contract extension before the start of this season through 2023-2024.

That’s also assuming Boudreau would be the Maple Leafs first choice.

Both the Vancouver Canucks and their coach have until June 1st to agree to continue with the one-year option that exists.

So dream sequence aside, why wait?

“He knows we want him back, he was told that before the season was over,” Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford told the media on Tuesday. “and he knows our position.”

That position being there will be no talk of an extension beyond next season or a change in terms until Boudreau coaches at least one full season with the Vancouver Canucks.

Boudreau flies to his home in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. He told VHN on Tuesday that he’s just taking a little bit of time to decompress, after what he called being involved in “continuous Game-7” mode since December.

He made it clear he wants to coach the Vancouver Canucks, and there’s no doubt he accomplished plenty.

“He did a terrific job,” Rutherford said, “but he didn’t coach a full season here. We’d like to have him back and work with him on a few things, everybody to work together to make it better.”

There’s a little bit of an unknown as it relates to that ‘everybody’. Boudreau isn’t sure of the contract status of all of his assistants. Scott Walker arrived with him and ran the penalty kill until he was hit in the head with a puck during the Canucks game against the Florida Panthers on January 21st. Side effects kept Walker off the bench for two months.

Brad Shaw, who Boudreau inherited from former head coach Travis Green’s staff, handled the PK for the balance of the season even after Walker returned.

“Scott’s the ultimate team guy,” Boudreau said.

Jason King, who handled the power play along with Boudreau was also a carry-over from the previous staff, as was additional assistant Kyle Gustafson.

No decision has been announced on the group’s future with the club. Traditionally in the NHL the head coach has a prominent say in the make-up of his coaching staff.

Canucks number-one netminder Thatcher Demko would be the first to tell you that goalie coach Ian Clark isn’t going anywhere.

As for his policy regarding Boudreau the bench boss, Rutherford put his position in historical context from his days as general manager with the Penguins.

“(Head Coach) Mike Sullivan had a contract in Pittsburgh, won the Cup in ’16, I didn’t do anything with his contract,” Rutherford said. “He won the Cup in ’17, I didn’t do anything with his contract and he was going into his last year. And then he got to the point where part-way through the next year, we said, maybe we should talk about it before we get to the end of the year.”

Rutherford later said the mid-season negotiation possibility might exist for Boudreau as well.

“That’s certainly not to say that at the end of next year we wouldn’t want him back,” Rutherford added, “if he continues to do the job he’s doing. We have an exclusive time period to negotiate a new contract at the end of next season … giving him a chance to take the team from training camp and all the way through next season. You know, I guess we could get to a point where part way through the season we may decide to talk about that.”

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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