Struggling Canucks name Boudreau coach amid leadership purge

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FILE – Minnesota Wild’s head coach Bruce Boudreau shouts after a penalty call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks, on Jan. 12, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. The Vancouver Canucks cleaned house late Sunday night, Dec. 5, 2021, dumping three executives and head coach Travis Green and replacing him with veteran Bruce Boudreau. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs, File)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Vancouver Canucks named veteran Bruce Boudreau coach following a leadership purge late Sunday night in which three executives and head coach Travis Green were let go.

The Canucks, in a statement, said general manager Jim Benning was fired and assistant manager Jim Weisbrod, Green and assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner were also relieved of their duties.

The Canucks said the search for new hockey operations leadership “has begun.”

Boudreau, former coach of the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild, is the 20th head coach in Canucks history. Scott Walker was named assistant coach to Boudreau.

“I am excited to add Bruce Boudreau as our new head coach, and Scott as assistant,” Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini said in a statement. “Bruce is one of the most experienced coaches in the NHL, with nearly 1,000 games behind the bench and a successful track record working with some of the game’s best talent. Scott is a young coach with an excellent reputation who will fit in very well with our group.”

The changes follow a dismal performance Saturday in which the Pittsburgh Penguins routed the Canucks 4-1 in Vancouver, eliciting boos and chants of “fire Benning!” The Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

The 58-year-old Benning was known for some solid draft picks and questionable free-agent signings over his eight seasons as GM.

Vancouver is off to a rough start this year, falling to last place in the Pacific Division with a record of 8-15-2.

Several of Vancouver’s stars have struggled offensively and the club’s special teams have floundered. The team has the worst penalty kill in the league (64.6%) and has capitalized on 17.4% of its power-play chances.

“These are difficult decisions, but we believed we would have a competitive group this year,” Aquilini said. “As a result, I’m extremely disappointed in how the team has performed so far. I’m making these changes because we want to build a team that competes for championships and it’s time for new leadership to help take us there.”

The 66-year-old Boudreau has a career coaching record of 567-302-115 and won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach in 2007-08 when he was with the Capitals. He was fired by the Wild in Feb. 2020, during his 13th season as an NHL coach. During Boudreau’s coaching tenure, his teams made the playoffs in 10 of 12 full seasons.

The 49-year-old Walker spent four seasons playing right wing for the Canucks from 1994-98. He previously coached the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm and worked as the Storm’s president of hockey operations.

The 50-year-old Green was in his fifth season behind the bench. He led Vancouver to the playoffs once during his tenure.

Green admitted that his team’s dismal start was “trying,” and said it can be frustrating to not get results when you feel like you’re playing well in certain parts of your game.

“You bang your head against the wall, you get up the next day and try to pick your team up a little bit. Also be stern with them in areas where you need to be stern and fix,” he said in mid-November. “From a coaching standpoint, you have to make sure you keep your emotions in check and get the right message across to your group.”

Green signed a two-year extension in May after Vancouver finished the 2020-21 campaign last in the seven-team all-Canadian North Division with a record of 23-29-4.

The 2020-21 season was a difficult one for Green and the Canucks, both on and off the ice. Vancouver won just two games in February and suffered the NHL’s worst COVID-19 outbreak at the end of March.

Twenty-one players and four coaches — including Green — tested positive for the virus and the Canucks’ games were put on hold for more than two weeks.

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