There was no valentine waiting for Bruce Boudreau when he arrived at the Minnesota Wilds training facility on Friday morning.
After his team failed to protect a 3-1 lead and fell 4-3 in a shootout to the New York Rangers on Thursday night, Boudreau was met at TRIA Rink by general manager Bill Guerin, who abruptly relieved him of his duties.
According to Michael Russo of The Athletic, Guerin told the veteran coach it was something he was thinking about for awhile and Boudreau immediately walked out of the room and left the practice facility.
I would like to thank Bruce for his hard work and commitment to the Minnesota Wild during his tenure with the organization and wish him and his family the best in the future, said Guerin in a statement.
The Wild are the eighth NHL team to make an in-season head coaching change this year. In 2018-19, seven coaches were dismissed during the season as well as two more at the end of the year.
The turnover has been relentless over the past few seasons. Claude Julien was hired by the Montreal Canadiens exactly three years ago, on Feb. 14, 2017, and is now the eighth-longest-tenured coach in the NHL. Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning is the longest tenured hell hit the seven-season mark on March 25. Paul Maurice of the Winnipeg Jets is second. He was hired on Jan. 12, 2014; on Wednesday, he signed a multi-year extension to remain with the Jets, who sit two points ahead of the Wild in the Western Conference standings.
Though Guerin told the media in Saint Paul on Friday that its never just one thing, when it comes to a big decision like dismissing a coach, he also admitted that Thursdays result played into his thinking.
Assistant coach Dean Evason will take control of the Minnesota bench for the rest of the season on an interim basis, making him one of 15 NHL coaches in his first season with his current team.
Guerin said that a full search will be conducted before a permanent replacement is named during the offseason. Some high-profile coaches who are currently without work include Gerard Gallant and Peter Laviolette, who were dismissed in January by the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators, respectively, and Mike Babcock, who was the first coach fired this season when he was let go by the Toronto Maple Leafs in November.
Boudreau was hired by the Wild in May of 2016, barely a week after hed been dismissed by the Anaheim Ducks. In three-plus seasons, he led Minnesota to a 158-110-35 record. The Wild finished with more than 100 points in each of his first two seasons, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs both years.
The Wild replaced general manager Chuck Fletcher with Paul Fenton following the 2017-18 season, but they fell to last place in the Central Division in 2018-19 and missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. After determining that we didn't have the right leader for our organization, Wild owner Craig Leipold dismissed Fenton last July after one season. Guerin was hired in late August, just weeks before training camp opened.
While its common to see a new general manager want to hire his own coach, Guerin said Friday that he didnt take the job with the intention of making this change. After winning just one of their first seven games this season, the Wild have improved as the season has gone on. Their best run was an 8-0-3 stretch between Nov. 14 and Dec. 5, and a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games has them sitting three points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference going into Fridays games.
Guerin made his first trade as Wild GM on Monday, sending winger Jason Zucker to the team he used to work for, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in exchange for forward Alex Galchenyuk, defense prospect Calen Addison and a conditional first-round draft pick. Its a deal that appears to be more future-focused, but also seemed intended to send a message that Guerin wont be afraid to make more moves.
The 2020 NHL trade deadline is 10 days away, on Feb. 24.
As for Dean Evason this will be his first experience as an NHL head coach. He was in his second season as an assistant with Minnesota, and has a long coaching history that included time as an assistant under Boudreau with the Washington Capitals and head jobs with the AHLs Milwaukee Admirals as well as the Calgary Hitmen and Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League.
A center in his playing days, Evason was drafted in the fifth round by the Capitals in 1989. He went on to collect 372 points and 1,002 penalty minutes in 803 NHL games with five different teams.
After going 1-1-1 so far on their current homestand, the Wild will host the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, then get three days off before road games in Vancouver and Edmonton next week.