Gabby Gets the Big Gig

Morning Cup-A-JoeNear 4:30 yesterday afternoon newly named NHL Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was enjoying his first dinner as an official NHL bench boss in the press lounge of Verizon Center. There was something too arena vendor baked ziti about the scene. I thought about where in Washington I’d want to have my first dinner were I just named an NHL head coach. The Palm? The Capitol Grill? Camelot? (That might be too Bruce Cassidy.) But Boudreau being Boudreau, a green-challenged salad in a styrofoam bowl in the bowels of a big rink was just fine.
Moments later, he was introduced to the media as Capitals Head Coach, no qualifiers attached. Seconds into his remarks he referenced how the move allowed the Hershey Bears’ organization to move forward and make Bob Woods the Bears’ official head coach. Then he pointed out how he felt about the Capitals’ organization.
“The [Capitals’] organization has been so good to me. I just want to win for them.
“The goal is to be here a long time.”
He acknowledged that the decision by General Manager George McPhee allowed him to be “a little more comfortable” behind the bench. But he also signaled the limitation that came his way with this move: “until further notice I’m here.”
“By no means does this mean that there’s any comfortability in my situation,” he added.
Rather immediately media were able to infer that this decision addressed the current Caps’ season and not necessarily the next season or the season after that. Perhaps that’s because the general manager himself won’t necessarily determine who’ll coach the Caps next season. But at season’s end, or some time appropriate in the offseason, somebody is certain to sit down with Boudreau and take full inventory of the wins and losses and general state of things Caps, and decide more fully his future with the team.
The head coach was asked about his family back in Hershey, and whether they’d be joining him here and settling in a bit. His reply was so hockey, and therefore so Boudreau.
“My son is his team’s only goalie, so they won’t be moving down.”
The head coach was asked about the Caps’ overall improvement the past month. Both the power play and penalty kill are appreciably better, and the team has scored about a goal a game more under Boudreau compared with Glen Hanlon’s Caps. But perhaps what’s most telling about Boudreau’s impact is his team’s overall competitiveness. Even in a seemingly lopsided score like the 5-2 setback against the Habs earlier this month, Boudreau noted, the game’s outcome wasn’t determined until well into the third period, his team competed hard until the end, and Habs’ coach Guy Carbonneau afterward would admit that his club was outplayed. Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock would admit to the media after his club’s shootout victory over the Caps how fortunate the Wings were to win.
There are more wins than losses under Coach Boudreau, and the losses suffered are hard-earned by the victors.
But if Boudreau really wants to make a lasting impression in D.C., he need look no further than his challenge tonight, in Pittsburgh, the House of All Horrors for the Caps. Boudreau might know these two rosters — and Pens’ bench boss Michel Therrien — as well as anyone in hockey. While in Hershey Boudreau’s Bears met the often Therrien-led Wilkes Barre-Scranton baby Pens 25 times. Boudreau won 14 of those games, including a tidy 4-0 sweep of the 113-pt., East Division-winning Jr. Pens in the 2006 postseason, en route to Hershey’s Calder Cup title.
Let him keep up those winning ways against Sidney and Co. in D.C. and see what table he earns at the Palm.

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