Bruce Boudreau fired as Wild coach, Dean Evason to take over behind bench

The fact Bruce Boudreau was fired as the Wild’s coach didn’t come as a huge surprise. The fact he was fired on Friday morning with his team three points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, that was shocking.

The Wild lost 4-3 in a shootout to the New York Rangers on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center and will play host to San Jose on Saturday to end a four-game homestand. Assistant coach Dean Evason has been named interim coach and will be under consideration for the full-time job after this season, according to first-year general manager Bill Guerin.

“I just felt like the timing was right,” Guerin said of making the decision now. “You’re never going to make everybody happy … (I just) feel the timing is right to do it now and that’s just the way I felt.”

Guerin said he felt the Wild players “needed a different voice,” in their final 25 games, adding “last night was a game we should have won.”

Boudreau, 65, was in the final season of a four-year contract he signed in May 2016 that paid him just under $3 million annually.  He led the Wild to the playoffs in his first two seasons but the team lost in the opening round each time. General manager Chuck Fletcher, who hired Boudreau, was fired after the 2017-18 season and replaced by Paul Fenton.

The Wild went 37-36-9 last season and missed the playoffs. Although it was believed Fenton wanted to make a change behind the bench, that never happened. Fenton was fired this summer and replaced by Guerin, who had been working in the Penguins’ front office.

Guerin talked to the players on Friday morning. “If the players are hurt by this, maybe they are not the players we should have here,” he said.

The Wild got off to a 1-6 start this season but Guerin remained patient and the Wild now sits at 27-23-7 after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period on Thursday against the Rangers. When the Wild missed the playoffs last season it marked only the second time a Boudreau-coached team had missed the playoffs in 12 seasons as a coach.

Boudreau started his NHL coaching career in 2007-08 with Washington and was behind the Capitals bench for four-plus seasons. He then spent four-plus seasons in Anaheim before taking over in Minnesota. He is 567-302-115 in 13 seasons as an NHL coach and was 158-110-35 in three-plus seasons with the Wild. Boudreau also coached the Central Division at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game.

Guerin had spent his first five-plus months on the job observing what he had in the Wild organization. He made his first significant move on Monday, sending winger Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh for winger Alex Galchenyuk, a 2020 first-round pick and defensive prospect Calen Addison.

With the NHL trade deadline coming on Feb. 24, there is speculation that Guerin might not be done making moves and that he could make more deals with the future in mind. This reportedly could include defenseman Matt Dumba.

Evason followed Fenton to Minnesota after being coach of Milwaukee Admirals in the American Hockey League for six seasons. Fenton was in charge of the Milwaukee team as part of his duties in the Nashville Predators’ front office.

Guerin continues to say the Wild can make the postseason. “Absolutely, we are  pushing through,” he said.