ST. PAUL — The Wild’s failure to make the playoffs for the first time in seven years was a disappointment but many did not find fault with the job coach Bruce Boudreau did this season.
Evidently, general manager Paul Fenton agreed.
Sitting alongside his coach at the team’s end-of-season press conference on Tuesday, Fenton said that Boudreau will return in 2019-20. Boudreau has one year remaining on the four-year, approximately $12 million contract he signed in May 2016. He also reportedly was given an additional two years by former GM Chuck Feltcher to serve in a consultant role for the club. Fenton gave no assurances beyond next season.
“Bruce is my coach next year. I have total confidence in him,” said Fenton, who replaced Fletcher last spring and hadn’t worked with Boudreau before this season. “You look at his track record for the number of years that he’s been an NHL coach. It’s amazing. So, Bruce is our coach next year. I’m very confident in him. We have not met with (owner) Craig (Leipold) about the future of any of our coaches to be honest with you. But right now, Bruce is my coach and he’s going to be the guy that’s going to lead this team back to where we want to go.”
Boudreau said after the press conference that that was the first time he heard Fenton say he was definitely going to return.
“We haven’t had any discussions about it at all,” Boudreau said. “I knew I had another year left on my contract and my job is to coach until I’m told not to coach anymore. So I take that as an everyday step. I come in every day and I work as hard as I can. When they don’t want me to work anymore they will tell me.”
Boudreau, 63, led the Wild to 100-plus point seasons in his first two years in Minnesota, but the Wild did not get past the first round in either case. He also has coached Washington and Anaheim in 12 NHL seasons and this is only the second time a team he has coached has missed the playoffs. The first time came in 2011-12 when he took over the Ducks for the final 58 games after being fired in Washington.
The Wild finished last in the Central Division this season with 83 points. That was the franchise’s fewest points in a full season since it had 81 and missed the playoffs in 2011-12. That summer Leipold signed free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts and the Wild had not missed the playoffs since until this spring.
Fenton made several moves during this season and the Wild also was impacted by the loss of defenseman Matt Dumba and center Mikko Koivu to season-ending injuries. As far as getting back to the playoffs next season, it should come as no surprise that Boudreau is optimistic.
“The way I look at it is we had 101 points last year,” Boudreau said. “One hundred points won the division this year. I mean, if we can get a little bit better and a little healthier, I don’t see why we don’t get 100 points every year. Because I can go over games right now that we just threw away, and there’s at least 10 of them in there where we were either by far the better team and lost or had two or three goal leads in the third period and blew. So if you can escape those things and move forward and be a little more consistent, then I think in my mind it’s not a hard problem to get to 100-plus points again.”