Boudreau’s Last Chance?
Washington has arguable the strongest team it’s ever had. And with such an array of talent at his disposal, Bruce Boudreau needs to make sure his fifth season at the helm counts if he is to remain in charge.
Capitals General Manager George McPhee has done a tremendous job bolstering the teams roster this summer. Adding veteran puck stopper Thomas Vokoun and power forward Joel Ward to a team that already boasts some serious skills ensures the club is among the front-runners in the East once again.
But that’s been the case ever since Boudreau became Head Coach in 2007.
He did a tremendous job turning the franchise fortunes around and made them a perennial contender, at least on paper. After missing the post season three years running, Boudreau has guided the Caps to four straight division titles and a Presidents Trophy. No mean feat for any Coach!
Problem is, for all their talent they are yet to get beyond the Conference semi-finals and more worryingly seem to be getting further away from a Cup final appearance, rather than closer as you might expect.
The epic clash with Pittsburgh in 2009 seemed to suggest the franchise was on the right track, even if the Penguins prevailed on that occasion. McPhee wheeled and deal-ed to try to find the perfect balance to take the franchise to the next level; but it hasn’t happened.
A disappointing exit in the first round of the 2010 play-offs, having led the series 3-0, was followed up by a meek exit in round 2 this year, as Tampa Bay swept aside Boudreau’s men in four games.
Whilst Jaroslav Halak’s super human efforts might be used as a ‘get out’ in 2010, the Capitals were out played by Tampa this year. More worryingly Boudreau simply seemed to be out coached by new kid on the block Guy Boucher.
And that’s the real kicker for me. You have to feel McPhee has done his level best to improve the team at every turn. They were accused of lacking grit, leadership and a strong defensive conscience. McPhee’s response was to add Mike Knuble, Scott Walker, Jason Arnott and Scott Hannan respectively over the past two seasons.
This summer he has addressed the other question mark the franchise had as he brought in veteran netminder Vokoun to play alongside talented youngsters Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.
The further addition of Ward, a player who seems to take it up a notch in the post season, and the return to fitness of Mike Green only make an impressive line up look even more capable of great things.
The roster has got better year on year. The only thing which has stayed the same is behind the bench. Now we’re at a point where something has to give.
Boudreau doesn’t necessarily have to win the Cup this year – but he has to show that he is still the man to take this franchise forward. The Presidents Trophy is nice, but it’s not the ultimate prize; and if Brucie B can’t display the nous to take the Capitals to the next level maybe it’s time for somebody else to take charge.