Don’t fire Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim (Trending Topics)

Basically the second the Ducks went down 2-0 in Game 7 on Wednesday night, people began speculating whether this was it for Bruce Boudreau behind the bench in Anaheim.

You can see why they would. The guy loses Game 7 matchups on an alarmingly regular basis, and his teams so often seem to put up little or no fight to their opponents in the process. He’s 1-7 in his career in such situations, and has dropped six straight. That kind of thing builds you a reputation in this sport, and it’s a reputation you certainly do not want to carry. 

In fact, in the last four Boudreau-coached seasons, the Ducks have found themselves in 2-0 holes less than 17 minutes into each of the four Games 7 they have played. They also faced a 2-0 deficit in 2010 against Montreal (2-1 loss) and were down 5-0 against Pittsburgh in 2009 before scoring (6-2 loss). Only Game 7 against the Flyers in 2008 (a 3-2 overtime loss) and Game 7 in the opening round against the Rangers in 2009 (a 2-1 win, but they conceded 5:35 into the game) blemish this otherwise ignominious record.

Again, the reputation grows.

It therefore becomes pretty easy to label Boudreau as a choker who chokes in almost every Game 7 he can, watching as his teams dig their graves early then just stand neck-deep in them for the final three-quarters of the contest.

But given what we know of the random nature of NHL games — that any contest between two reasonably good teams is effectively a coin flip — can we not conclude that Boudreau’s teams have run into a seemingly consequential run of futility that is, in actuality, a really rough run of bad luck? I mean, no one wants to say that kind of thing because we’d really like to say, “Actually, Boudreau sucks and is an idiot who loses all the time.” It fits so well with the level of consequence we put into elimination games when they are, in fact, more or less the same as any other hockey game, ruled by randomness.

What, for example, does a coach really control in terms of on-ice events? He puts a system in place, and deploys the players, but he cannot pull Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf — two big-money, high-level forwards who combined to score just two goals in the series, neither of which came after Game 4 — and say, “Time to go score a goal.” He likewise cannot advise Frederik Andersen on how best to not-concede two goals on the first 10 shots he faces.

In fact, if we look at what Boudreau-coached teams have actually done in the eight Games 7 of his career, you can see that, in theory, they should have won a lot more than one by now. We’re talking a score-adjusted 5-on-5 possession number of 53.1 percent and a shots-for share of 53.7 percent, but goals-for of just 33.3 percent. That latter number is because Boudreau’s teams have shot 4.5 percent in eight Games 7 for him, and his goalies have a robust full-strength save percentage of .896. Yeah, it’s only eight games, a small sample size one way or the other, but if you have a 94.1 PDO over any kind of stretch, you’re going to lose a hell of a lot more games than you win.

Let’s not forget, Boudreau’s job was thought to be in jeopardy as recently as October, when — hey, what do you know — the Ducks were a marginal possession team but suffering from a league-worst shooting percentage and middling goaltending that gave them a PDO in the 95 range.

Boudreau was able to pull the club out of its tailspin then, by changing the team’s approach until winning in the way the Ducks always had — bullying teams offensively — came more naturally once again, and won the division.

And winning the division is important. It typically shows a team is consistently good for the full 82-game slate. And it’s therefore critical to note Boudreau’s teams have won their division in every one of the seven seasons in which he was the head coach for the full 82. That’s truly incredible.

(For the year in which he was fired in Washington and took over a rudderless Ducks team, he finished with 89 points, which isn’t a terrible total all things considered. And when he took over the Capitals in late November of 2011, he won 81 points in the team’s final 61 games, a pace for nearly 109 points. That team won the division as well, though to be fair, it was only the Southeast.)

Over the course of his entire career, Boudreau’s teams look like this:

NHL

This is a coach whose teams are consistently elite or close to it in most 5-on-5 statistical categories, and who also routinely have some of the best special teams in the league. This over hundreds upon hundreds of games. But because he’s 0h-fer in Games 7 in Anaheim, the hockey world has to talk about how he is never going to win.

How long to do you think a coach this good with a team this talented at more or less every position can continue to lose these coin flips? As you can see above, the last time Boudreau was out of a job, he was on the unemployment line for a grand total of two days. He was fired by the Capitals on Nov. 28, 2011, and hired by the Ducks on Nov. 30. This is, indeed, the kind of coach you fire your own coach to hire.

NHL teams — well, the smart ones anyway — would recognize that. Boudreau shown himself to be a smart, adaptable coach who can turn talented teams into regular-season juggernauts. The only reason his firing is even up for discussion is that a collectively large portion of the punditry and (probably) people in front offices believe that any single elimination game is more important in terms of determining coaching, player, or team quality than hundreds of other data points.

You hear these labels applied to Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and more, all the time. Hell, people have even started saying Henrik Lundqvist is the reason the New York Rangers can’t win it all. It’s silly.

There’s no doubt these games do mean more than the average playoff game, and certainly more than those in the regular season. But firing a guy because he can’t win in four straight Games 7 would be the height of idiocy.

Let’s not forget, the Capitals were mediocre (and unwatchable) the second Boudreau was fired. It took them most of a season of Dale Hunter then two more years of Adam Oates to get things back together. And that was with a younger, better core group of five or six important players than what Anaheim has going for it today.

What makes anyone think Anaheim would be any different?

The question to ask yourself when you’re preparing to fire a coach is, “Would his replacement do a better job with this group?” When it comes to Boudreau, I don’t see how you find an available candidate who fits that bill. Or even comes close.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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First rounders Elliott, Doctson, Lynch big fantasy winners

Ear-to-ear grins. Mom tears of joy. Goodell bear hugs. … Round 1 of the NFL Draft was filled with the usual enthusiasm. 

For fantasy purposes, though, the excitement level climbed to stratospheric heights for only a very select few as a pair of highly though of college stars including Corey Coleman (Cleveland) and Laquon Treadwell (Minnesota) landed in undesirable locales. 

But enough about Thursday’s biggest losers, here are the clear-cut fantasy winners from Day of the NFL Draft: 

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now]

Ezekiel Elliott, Dal, RB – A three-down beast in the making, everyone’s favorite crop-top hit the jackpot when Dallas selected him at No. 4 overall. Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will vie for touches, but it’s very probable Elliott registers 18-plus touches per game out of the gate. Behind an offensive line that ranked No. 6 in run-blocking according to Football Outsiders last year and with a viable pass attack featuring Tony Romo and Dez Bryant as support, the former Buckeye is a strong candidate for 1,500-plus total yards and double-digit touchdowns. Don’t fear the unknown. He’s worth every penny in Round 1 of 12-team fantasy drafts. 

Josh Doctosn, Was, WR – Undoubtedly my favorite wide receiver in this year’s Draft, Doctson enters into a favorable situation in D.C. Yes, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are still kicking and Jordan Reed is potentially slated for a monster year, provided he stays healthy, but the youngster’s length, jumping ability and toughness suggest he’ll soon be the apple of Kirk Cousins’ eye in red-zone situations. It would be no surprise if he finished in range of 65-70 receptions, 1,000 yards and 5-7 TDs this fall. In other words, he could mirror what Oakland target Amari Cooper achieved as a rookie last year. 

Paxton Lynch, Den, QB – Due to his lack of polish, time is Lynch’s strongest ally. It’s unlikely his fantasy impact will be felt immediately, but, unequivocally, Denver is an ideal employer. Learning under John Elway and Gary Kubiak could unlock his potential. On the surface, the Memphis product’s towering frame, strong accurate downfield arm and mobility are attractive qualities. However, he’ll need plenty of practice reps to advance his reads/progressions along and short-to-intermediate touch. Still, for the dynasty crowd, it’s entirely possible Lynch winds up outpacing Jared Goff and Carson Wentz down the road. 

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Cam Newton explains infamous Super Bowl news conference

Let’s get this out of the way: In almost every instance, you don’t care how an athlete or coach treats the media in a news conference. And that’s fine.

Let’s also admit that the extended vitriol over Cam Newton’s post-Super Bowl news conference is just a good excuse to rip the Carolina Panthers quarterback. Nobody cared before or since if players were cooperative in a postgame interview, and nobody will care in the future if a player is rude to reporters. But all of a sudden on Super Bowl Sunday you cared deeply that Newton was short with his answers and left the news conference abruptly. Sure.

(AP)But it won’t die. A post I wrote last week about Newton stopping to play with seventh graders at a school generated plenty of comments about that infamous news conference. Sigh. So Newton felt the need to explain what happened in that nearly three-month-old interview, and offer a bit of an apology in an interview with Ebony magazine, although this is probably the first time someone has had to answer for being short in an interview.

“The truth is, I represent something way bigger than myself,” Newton told Ebony, via ESPN.com. “I’m doing it for [my fans and family] and I felt like I let them down.”

Newton, who dug in and made everyone angrier with his “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser” line a couple days after the Super Bowl, told Ebony he wasn’t ready to talk, and more time would have helped. Everyone since then has pointed out every athlete who has politely answered questions after a loss and compared it to Newton, whether it was the North Carolina basketball team after the NCAA championship or Jordan Spieth after unraveling at the final round of the Masters. While there is a bit of validity to that, there’s also validity in Newton saying that each situation is different.

“Who is anyone to tell me, ‘Man, it’s just an interview,'” Newton told Ebony, according to ESPN.com. “You haven’t been in that situation. You didn’t have millions of people watching you. Your heart wasn’t pumping [with] the embarrassment or the anxiety of the stress of dealing with that type of game.”

This story won’t die here of course, not with people who like to criticize Newton needing something as meaningless as a postgame interview to use as ammunition against him. But Newton expressed some regret, which is a shift from what he has said before.

Never before has an athlete’s reaction to media questions been such a controversial issue. Savor it, because that will never happen again, unless it involves Newton and people decide that’s their new reason to rip him.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Bobby Knight on Donald Trump: ‘The best man for the job’

Bobby Knight, Donald Trump.Legendary former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight endorsed Donald Trump for president in a characteristically fiery, pugnacious speech on Wednesday night.

Knight, at least as well known for his take-no-prisoners attitude as his winning record, spoke to Trump supporters at a rally in Indiana. A sampling of his remarks, via Business Insider and The Hill:

• On Trump’s qualifications: “They talk in a negative way when they want to about Donald, and say he isn’t presidential. I don’t know what the hell that means. To me I think of Harry Truman, they said Harry Truman wasn’t presidential. And damn he went on to be one of the three best presidents in U.S. history. [Trump] will at some point be one of those also.”

• On Trump’s managerial touch: “He does a great job of finding good people and teaching good people. And even as important, he’s really good at getting rid of people.”

• On the value of Trump’s supporters: “They’re going to take all you people and put you next to our founding fathers and George Washington. That’s what the hell they’re going to do with you people.”

• On military service: “I want all you Navy people to please raise your hands. And I want you to know that I spent eight years teaching soldiers at the United States Military Academy. And we played Navy eight straight years, folks, and we beat your ass every year we played you.”

• On Trump’s status as candidate: “I again thank you for the opportunity to coach basketball in this state, and now I give you the very best choice that’s ever been made to take over as a president, I give you Donald Trump.”


• On the similarities between himself and Trump, on Fox News: “If we’re involved in something where we want to win, particularly something necessary, if there’s something out there we want to win, we’re going to try and beat your ass every time.”

• On Trump’s preparation: “There has never been a presidential candidate prepared to the length that this man is. I’m not here to represent the Republican Party or any organization that deals with politics. I think the most important thing in the world is that we vote for the best man for the job, and you’ve already met him.”

Indiana voters will make thier choice for a Republican nominee next Tuesday. If Trump wins a majority of the state’s delegates, he will be well on the path to the party’s nomination. However, Indiana is heavily contested territory; polls generally favor Trump, but FiveThirtyEight posits a 53 percent chance the state could go for Republican rival Ted Cruz.

The selection of Knight as an endorser could cut either way for Trump. Knight won three national championships during his years at Indiana, but was fired in 2000 after violating the university’s zero-tolerance stance on bad behavior when he lectured at, and grabbed the arm of, a student he perceived as disrespectful. Knight has since refused to associate himself with the university in any way, despite the efforts of later coaches and administrators to bring him back into the fold.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Minnesota Wild

Wild

 

 

(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we’re bound to lose some friends along the journey. We’ve asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here is Steve Dangle of The Steve Dangle Podcast, who wanted to eulogize someone and the wheel stopped on the 2015-16 Minnesota Wild.)

(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don’t take it so seriously.)

BY STEVE DANGLE

Dear Southern Winnipeggers, we are gathered here today to remember the Minnesota Wild. Nothing actually happened to them, I just often need to be reminded that they exist.

Nonetheless, their hopes of winning the Stanley Cup this season are dead. Unfortunately, we’ll have to forego a burial. Getting torched for 21 goals in six games was enough of a cremation on its own.  

But there is something to celebrate: Congratulations to the Minnesota Wild on becoming the first thing Jamie Benn has ever eaten …

Furthermore, congratulations to the Minnesota Wild on being the second-best green team in the NHL out of two. Whether it’s their Canadian goose poop-colored jerseys or their bloody morning booger-colored jerseys, they still wear their colors with pride.

Their fierce, and dare I say wild, logo reminds me of their famous state slogan: “Minnesota: We have… trees?”

Wild

Minnesota has been through a lot over the past quarter century or so. The North Stars left in 1993, and they’ve been searching for an NHL team ever since. 

You might be thinking, “Hey at least the Wild actually make the playoffs.” True, but as is often the case, Minnesota’s playoff success relied on Patrick Roy failing to get the job done.

The Wild had coaching struggles of their own. After a rancid skid in which Minnesota lost 13 out of 14 games, and after Chuck Fletcher was informed that Connor McDavid had actually already been drafted last year, the Wild decided to fire Mike Yeo and replace him with Patrick Warburton.

Tick

The star of The Tick and those National Car Rental commercials managed to coach the Wild all the way to round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. During Game 6 of their series with the Dallas Stars, they found themselves down 4-0 after 40 minutes. For two periods they made Kari Lehtonen look like J.S. Giguere. 

But then… something amazing happened.

The Minnesota Wild went WILD. They fought and they clawed their way through the third period and almost won the game. Oh, they still totally lost 5-4, but it truly was one of the greatest almost comebacks of all-time, just behind Team USA’s inspirational almost comeback against Canada in the 2010 Gold Medal Game. It was the kind of almost comeback Hollywood almost makes movies about it. What an honor it must be for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to be a part of both almost comeback teams. 

This was just one of the Wild’s almost good moments of these playoffs. Remember when Devan Dubnyk almost stopped Antoine Roussel’s almost kick from behind the net? Dubnyk sure was mad about the goal, which weirdly didn’t stop it from being a legal hockey play and counting. This is a little late but you have to admire Dubnyk for being the first Masterton-winner to win the award just for not being bad anymore.

Minnesota’s epic Game 6 almost win sure was a thrill but we’re forgetting another Wild season highlight.

Did you know that the Wild played an outdoor game this season? You didn’t? Oh. Well they did. They beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1 in it, too! Granted, they probably only won because of the Blackhawks’ complete lack of experience playing in outdoor games but it was an important two points anyway.

“Why is a Leafs fan talking about the Minnesota Wild like this?” I’m glad you asked.

You see, Wild fans, we are the same in many ways. I too am used to cheering for a team that spends unfathomable amounts of money on free agents and spends draft picks like the world is going to end in two weeks.

Am I saying your team is screwed? No, no. Quite the opposite.

You see, you and I both know that any team who treats the draft like a free weekend off with a man named “C. Fletcher” at the helm is in good hands. We both know that crushing playoff defeats in a series where Tyler Seguin didn’t really do anything is definitely a one-off. We both know that almost wins are just as good as wins themselves.

None of my feelings for the Wild have anything to do with Craig Leipold crying poor then signing Parise and Suter to $196 million in contracts right before an NHL lockout that forced me to do highlights for the KHL for a year. None at all! I can’t hold it against the guy for trying to get a competitive edge. I know there’s two things in this world Craig Leipold wants: The Stanley Cup and his stapler back.

CL


CL

And with just $38,426,922 committed to players already over the age of 31 next season (and Matt Cooke lol), I’m sure he has a chance at getting at least one of those things. 

Think this eulogy crossed the line?

Wild

Well at least one thing did.

PREVIOUS EULOGIES

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Detroit Red Wings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Los Angeles Kings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 New York Rangers

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Florida Panthers

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