Bruce Boudreau wasted no time in getting to know his new team and conducted his first practice at Anaheim Ice.
What a breath of fresh air!
Perhaps the best description of the new paradigm shift in Anaheim would be to describe the final act by the Ducks. All the players had to gather around the goaltender in a semi circle and shoot pucks at the net. If the puck was stopped, they had to try again. But if the puck went in the net, they could head off the ice and to the dressing room. Before heading off, they were to chuck their sticks and throw their gloves in reckless abandon on the ice.
Lighthearted fun? Absolutely. Symbolic of shedding the baggage and getting rid of the weight that has burdened them this past month? Without a doubt.
The energy of the players was a marked improvement under the new eye of Boudreau. There was a jump in their step. There were smiles on their faces. They were trying to get their minds around a new way of approaching their hockey game.
It seemed freeing, and it was not just the gloves and sticks that were being abandoned. It was everything about the old way of doing things.
Bobby Ryan certainly had plenty to smile about. He was back on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. For now, the rumors about trading him seem to be quieter and less grounded in reality. The idea that the Ducks would have traded their proven 30 goal scorer before hiring a new coach seemed utterly ridiculous, but not unlikely given GM Bob Murray's track record.
Despite backing Carlyle, come hell or high water, and both had arrived in Anaheim with horrible play by the team, Murray did the unfathomable. He fired Carlyle. And the rest of the coaching staff. To most people, it was the logical response. With Murray, it was an unlikely response.
Maybe when everyone in Canada and even the US media were calling for Carlyle's head, including former players, it was time to listen. Whether Murray made the decision himself or he was pressured by ownership, the decision had to be made.
Boudreau never even had to go to the unemployment office. After being fired on Monday, the Ducks apparently obtained permission to talk with Boudreau, a sign something was brewing. Boudreau was already signed with the Ducks to replace Carlyle when the coaching change came on Wednesday evening after the Ducks win over Montreal, their first in 19 long miserable days.
The media, having been alerted to an announcement coming late after the game, were thinking it was Bobby Ryan who had been traded. No one saw the coaching change coming.
Teemu Selanne, who has had a difficult time being positive during the latest Ducks struggles, was as surprised as everyone.
"This came as a big shock,” Selanne told a Finnish magazine after the morning skate. ”I feel sorry for him, also behalf of myself. The business is tough sometimes. I’m very grateful for the coaching staff for them giving me an opportunity to get a silver lining to my career. After all, we won a Stanley Cup together. All of the guys have been very important for my career, especially Randy. He gave me an opportunity after my reconstructive knee surgery, even though I was an older guy."
Most importantly, Selanne sees the coaching change as an opportunity to move forward.
"All I can hope is that this will rejuvenate the team. It’s sad that a wake-up call like this has to be made, before we get back on track.”
After just one practice, the Ducks appear to be on a new track, one that needed to be explored. There won't be much time for adjustment before the Ducks play Philadelphia on Friday, but you can be sure, the Ducks are going to be a much livelier team. It's about time.