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‘Bruce, there he goes’ — Canucks replace Boudreau with Rick Tocchet

Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach Trent Cull were fired on Sunday, replaced by Rick Tocchet and Adam Foote.
Rick Tocchet, Patrik Allvin, and Jim Rutherford speak to the media after the Vancouver Canucks fired Bruce Boudreau as head coach and replaced him with Tocchet.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin began Sunday’s press conference with what was essentially a lie.

“This morning, I decided to do a coaching change here in Vancouver,” said Allvin.

The idea that the decision was made on Sunday morning is laughable. Everyone in hockey knew that Saturday was Boudreau’s final game behind the bench for the Canucks, including Boudreau himself. Meanwhile, it had been reported for over a week that Tocchet would be Boudreau’s replacement and he was already in town, ready for a press conference that very day.

In fact, Tocchet reportedly had a clause in his contract with TNT — he was a panelist on their NHL broadcasts — that required him to give four weeks' notice. In other words, this decision was made at least four weeks ago.

The Canucks letting this drag on turned it into a public relations nightmare. Boudreau was left dangling, coaching out one of the toughest parts of the schedule with the understanding that they were his final games. He was emotional, as were his players, and all of it could have been avoided by handling the situation with some professionalism and class.

If Allvin and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford had decided to let Boudreau go and search for his replacement, that was well within their rights. Boudreau wasn’t their hire — he was hired by Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini before Rutherford and Allvin — and the team’s struggles would have easily justified a coaching change. 

But instead of letting the axe fall and appointing an interim coach — former NHL head coach Mike Yeo was already behind the bench — they treated Boudreau with a complete lack of respect.

Rutherford did apologize on Sunday, saying, “I've known Bruce for a long time, he's been a friend and I feel very bad about it. And if I've offended anybody in the process, I apologize personally and on behalf of the Canucks.”

Then he quickly undercut that apology by suggesting that the process of changing coaches was actually completely normal — nothing out of the ordinary at all. Never mind the players who said it was like nothing they’d ever seen before or the people around the hockey world who have roundly condemned the way the Canucks handled this situation. 

Rutherford blamed the media’s “speculation” as causing all of the problems rather than his own handling of Boudreau’s replacement: “It was the speculation that drove this; it wasn’t us.”

If it was just speculation that Boudreau was going to get fired and Tocchet hired as his replacement, then it was the most uncannily accurate speculation in the history of the world. It’s almost as if, rather than speculation, it was accurate reporting of what was actually happening.

Secondly, the “speculation” was fueled by Rutherford’s own comments. He’s the one who publicly called out Boudreau’s training camp and systems in the media, to the point that Boudreau admitted on Saturday, “I thought it was over in November when there were certain things said.”

He’s the one who publicly said a week ago that he had been talking to potential coaching replacements for months. 

It was never speculation. The Canucks’ leadership publicly undercut their head coach while actively searching for his replacement. When the news got out that a new coach had been selected, the right thing to do would have been to let Boudreau go immediately to avoid any further embarrassment.

Instead, they let things drag on, right to Hockey Day in Canada, where the situation in Vancouver became a national talking point, if not an outright punchline. 

Welcome to the tire fire, Rick Tocchet. Good luck.

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