ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild players said they feel accountable for the firing of coach Bruce Boudreau on Friday.
“I kind of wear [Boudreau’s firing] on myself now,” goalie Alex Stalock said, one day after a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday, when Minnesota had a 3-1 lead in the third period. “Blew a two-goal lead and you don’t finish a game off the right way. … It’s a wakeup call. A lot of the players are probably holding themselves accountable for what happened this morning.”
Boudreau, who was 158-110-35 in four seasons with the Wild and didn’t advance past the Western Conference First Round in two Stanley Cup Playoff appearances, was replaced by Dean Evason, who has been an assistant with the Wild since 2018-19 and was an assistant under Boudreau with the Washington Capitals from 2007-12.
“I think it’s a message that it’s not enough right now,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “I think it’s been a little better but at the same time it’s not enough. The message that we got is (general manager Bill Guerin) really feels that we’re close. We can get into the playoffs and that’s why the change is made but I think that’s also a pretty clear message to the players that now it’s up to us.”
The Wild (27-23-7) are 7-3-1 in their past 11 games, three points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Minnesota hosts the San Jose Sharks at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday (5 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, NBCSCA, NHL.TV).
“You go home and understand that part of it is on us as players,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “I know if I played better this year then we’d be in a different scenario and Bruce might still have a job. You can’t go home and beat yourself up about it too much, but that’s the reality. So it’s important to be accountable … and just understand that we got to push to continue going forward.”
Said defenseman Jared Spurgeon: “It always comes down to the players. We’re the ones on the ice. We had a tough start to the season and that put us behind the eight ball, and now we’re chasing. We’ve been getting points, but at the same time, we have to use this as motivation that if it’s not going the way that we want it to, that there are going to be changes. As a group, we’re the ones that can control that.”
Evason said the entire team and staff takes responsibility for the firing but that they need to move on and focus on the task at hand.
“Whenever something like this happens, you can’t change (even if) you want to change everything,” he said. “You want to kind of tweak things. But we’ve got a game tomorrow. …So we touched on a couple of things. We thought our energy was really good. It was so quiet in the room before … you don’t know how the group’s going to react. But as far as practice, I think our reaction was pretty good.”
The Wild traded forward Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday for forward Alex Galchenyuk, defenseman prospect Calen Addison and a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft or 2021 NHL Draft. Guerin said there would be more moves made if he senses quit in the team.
“I don’t know if that’s his message, consequences, but I think he thinks we have a good team, I think we all think we have a good team,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Whoever is behind the bench, you have to go out and play hard. We are doing that and we have to continue to do that.”
“Anytime a guy gets traded or a coach gets fired, it’s not something you want to see. We have a lot of respect for Bruce. He was a great guy and a great coach. It’s sad to see him go.”
Dubnyk said he thinks the transition to Evason as coach will not be a difficult one for the Wild.
“[Evason has] made a strong effort throughout the few years to really get to know everybody and communicate, and I think that’s one thing he’s going to stress is communication between him and us,” Dubnyk said. “He’s developed great relationships with just about everybody in this room, so that will be an easy transition that way and make it easier for us going forward.”
Spurgeon agreed with Dubnyk.
“As a coach, intense, at least from an assistant coach standpoint,” Spurgeon said. “And he’s accountable. If you’re not doing your job, he’ll let you know face to face. As a player, we want that as well. You know if you’re playing well, you know if you’re not. It can also build confidence.
“I think as a group, it’s a fresh start. Evason has] been with us the last two years, so he knows us as players as well as people. We have a big game tomorrow to get back on that winning track.”