Leipold Says Boudreau Top 5 Coach
Wild owner Craig Leipold told Sports Headliners coach Bruce Boudreau’s job is secure even if the Minnesota NHL team doesn’t make the playoffs. Fans and media have speculated about Boudreau’s future for multiple reasons including the presence of new general manager Paul Fenton.
General managers often prefer to hire their own coaches. Leipold replaced Chuck Fletcher with Fenton after last season with the intent of making the Wild a better performing playoff team. The franchise has earned its way into six consecutive playoffs but is known for early exits.
Boudreau was hired as the Wild’s coach in 2016. His first two Minnesota teams exited the playoffs in the first rounds. As of today, the Wild has played well enough to be fourth in the Western Conference standings with 56 points. The team has won four more games than it has lost, reflecting inconsistent results but enough success to make the playoffs if the season ended now.
Boudreau had previous head NHL coaching jobs with the Capitals and Ducks. His teams had some playoff struggles and never made the Stanley Cup finals. That, too, was part of the reason Leipold was asked late last week if his coach’s job is safe if Minnesota doesn’t earn its way into the playoffs this spring.
“The answer is absolutely his job is safe,” Leipold said. “To be honest, we plan on making the playoffs, but there’s a lot of competition for those playoff spots, and I think Bruce has done a great job. (Defenseman Matt) Dumba going down for the season has hurt us obviously, so there are a lot of other issues if we don’t make the playoffs.
“Bruce is a spectacular coach. I still regard him as a top five in the league, as do most people. I look at it occasionally where I see a comment where a writer might say, ‘Is Bruce’s job on the line?’ Absolutely not.
“I don’t see that happening, although honestly, Paul and I have not even spoken about it. I feel certain Paul has the same feeling that I do about it.”
Leipold isn’t second-guessing his coach and general manager, nor is he doing that about the mega contracts he gave to forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter in 2012. The two free agents signed 13-year, $98 million deals.
“It was a game changer at that time,” Leipold said. “They are two special players. They continue to perform at very high levels. So the answer is unequivocally, if I had to make that decision over again, I would have made it even quicker than I did at that time. “
Parise leads the Wild in goals with 20 and in points with 45. Suter is fourth on the team in points with 34. Their skills, experience and leadership have not only paid off on the ice, Leipold said, but also financially for a franchise that regularly sells out its home games.
“They’re two players that are not lazy players,” Leipold said. “They give 100 percent all the time. The leadership that they have on the team is priceless. I wouldn’t be surprised if Suter, the way he is playing, he can play until he is 45. I am not going to be surprised if he wants another contract after this one expires.”
Parise is 35 years old, Suter 34. With several years remaining on their contracts does Leipold feel boxed in on payroll flexibility to improve his roster?
“You know I think at some point it might (be a factor), but it’s not right now,” Leipold said. “Because the average of their contract(s) is now really right on par with what top teams are paying their top players. The players now that are coming out to unrestricted free agency are making a lot more money than these two players did at that time.
“So, sure it takes $15 million (on the payroll) that we’re paying two players but the contributions that they make are well worth that money that we’re paying every year. So I have no regrets. None at all about that signing.”
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