The Renaissance Run: Bruce Boudreau Named 14th Head Coach in Franchise History On This Day 15 Years Ago

NHL

On this day 15 years ago, the Washington Capitals named then-Hershey Bears (American Hockey League) Head Coach Bruce Boudreau the 14th Head Coach in franchise history on an interim basis. The promotion of the longtime minor leagues coach would prove to be a turning point in the Alexander Ovechkin era, beginning a resurgence of hockey in the DMV.

Boudreau, who had enjoyed a decorated AHL career as a player, and had a notable track record as a coach in the lower professional leagues, debuted behind the bench a day after his promotion, securing a 4-3 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in the first of what would be a turnaround season for the Caps under “Gabby’s” tutelage; the team would go 37-17-7 the rest of the way after going 6-14-1 under previous coach Glen Hanlon, a run that resulted in a playoff berth in the final game of the regular season and Boudreau taking home the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the season.

The “interim” label was removed by the team and Boudreau would go on to coach a total of 329 regular season games behind the bench for the Capitals, before being fired early in the 2011-12 season after the Caps underwhelmed to begin the campaign.

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While Boudreau’s regular season results as the Capitals’ Head Coach were impressive, his inability to get his clubs deep into the postseason (something that has plagued him in his subsequent stops in the league) and a number of postseason collapses were arguably something that overshadowed his time in the District. In 37 postseason games, Boudreau’s teams went 17-20 (a .459% Win Percentage), with the most notable series loss coming in 2010, when the Caps, who entered the spring tournament fresh off a President’s Trophy-winning season of 54 wins (then a team record) and a high-powered offense led by the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green, fell in three straight to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens after pulling out to a 3-1 first round series lead while struggling to get much past then-Habs goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

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While Boudreau failed to lead the Capitals to the ultimate prize in the Stanley Cup, he remains one of the winningest bench bosses in franchise history and the period of hockey which he catalyzed upon taking the reins in 2007 re-energized a fan base that had not had much to cheer about since the team began their rebuild in the mid-2000s. Since leaving D.C., he has made stops in Anaheim (five seasons), Minnesota (nearly four full seasons), and after a brief time out of coaching, is in his second season and first full campaign behind the Vancouver Canucks’ bench.

The opinions of Boudreau’s time in Washington will undoubtedly vary depending on who one may ask, however, there is room to argue that the team’s fortunes (both short and long-term) may have been very different had then-General Manager George McPhee not given the career-minor league coach the chance to prove himself at the NHL level. From the “Young Guns” era to the present day in which Alex Ovechkin is in the hunt to become the NHL’s all-time greatest goal-scorer, the Caps’ success as a franchise (culminating in their first Stanley Cup victory in 2018) began on that late November day in 2007.

While Boudreau had been long gone (although prior to the hiring of current Head Coach Peter Laviolette, Bruce was reportedly among those talked to by the club to fill the vacancy) by the time the Caps captured Lord Stanley on June 7, 2018, as mentioned above, he is, in terms of regular season results, one of the best bench bosses in the nearly 50-year history of the club; he currently ranks third all-time in Wins (second at the time of his dismissal) with 201 (behind Bryan Murray’s 383 and Barry Trotz’ – the man behind the team’s Cup run – 205, third in Games Coached, and second in Points Percentage (.672).

By Michael Fleetwood
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More Reading:
Bruce There It Is! Former Capitals’ Coach Bruce Boudreau Coaches in 1,000th Career NHL Game
Bruce and Crystal Boudreau’s USPHL Team Named the Hershey Cubs
Best Moments Of Bruce Boudreau’s Capitals Coaching Career – Pt 1

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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6 Responses to The Renaissance Run: Bruce Boudreau Named 14th Head Coach in Franchise History On This Day 15 Years Ago

  1. novafyre says:

    Best coach the Caps have ever had. As Michael says, he energized the fan base. He made hockey fun. Gabby, Alex, and changing to Rock the Red uniforms ushered in the current Caps era.

    • Diane Doyle says:

      Promoting Boudreau greatly changed the culture of the Caps. From bottom feeder to contender, seemingly overnight.

  2. Diane Doyle says:

    Here was what we published 5 years ago on the Boudreau elevation to head coach.

    https://novacapsfans.com/2017/11/22/ten-years-ago-capitals-appoint-boudreau-head-coach/

    • novafyre says:

      Thanks Diane. Great memories.

      • novafyre says:

        Once upon a time there was a tavern
        Where we used to raise a glass or two
        Remember how we laughed away the hours
        Dreamed of all the great things they would do?

        Those were the days, my friend
        We thought they’d never end
        We’d sing and dance forever and a day
        We’d live the life we choose
        We’d fight and never lose
        For we were young and sure to have our way
        La la la la…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Bruce! There it is!

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