Just call him the short-order hockey coach.
Not once, but twice, Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau has taken over an NHL team in the midst of the regular season and managed to stop the hemorrhaging, landing in the playoffs with one of those teams — the Washington Capitals, in 2007-08, an especially dramatic turnaround.
Had the Ducks actually made the playoffs last season, the words “miracle worker” could have been attached to Boudreau’s resume. They were 7-13-4 with Randy Carlyle and were 27-23-8 under Boudreau’s watch.
This is the long way of saying Boudreau is better equipped than most to handle a short season. There will be plenty of built-in obstacles in the mad dash of a compressed NHL schedule.
And training camp will be mere days, not weeks.
The lockout-shortened, 48-game season is expected to start Jan. 19, with the Ducks apparently scheduled to open at Vancouver. Boudreau was discussing his plans and approach Wednesday right around the same time the NHL Board of Governors was approving the collective bargaining agreement.
“I can only do, quite frankly, what I’ve done in the past,” said Boudreau, who won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach in 2008. “And what I’ve done in the past has been successful for the teams I’ve been with. I’m hoping that same formula works here.
“I would have loved to [have] had the three weeks of camp to get to know all the minor league guys, to get everyone implemented in what we want to accomplish here. But we’re all in the same boat.
“I’ve been fortunate enough, experience-wise, to take over two teams in midseason. And so you know what to do in a short periods of time. You don’t have a lot of time to get everything going.”
Boudreau expects anywhere from 23 to 28 players to be in training camp. Barring any surprises, the players will be on the ice in Anaheim on Monday with medical evaluations the day before.
As the lockout lurched through the fall and into the winter, the coaches were revising and rewriting those plans so carefully crafted in the summer.
“We had our training camp all planned out,” Boudreau said. “Then we had a 10-day camp and then we had a seven-day camp all planned out. Now we’re just finishing touches on a five-day plan.
“We have to find our own competitive ways to get the guys ready rather than playing against another team. It’s not like a real training camp where you have people you want to take a look at or you want to give them a reward. The guys coming are guys that are going to have an automatic chance to start in our lineup next weekend.”
The lockout meant Boudreau spent quite a bit of time with the Ducks’ minor league affiliate in Norfolk, Va. The Admirals, of the American Hockey League, are 14-17-2. Closer to home, he has been able to watch many more of his 14-year-old son’s hockey games.
Now it’s back to trying to fix the Ducks.
Better that than trying to repair things around the house.
“Nobody wants me trying to fix a thing,” Boudreau said, chuckling. “I would wreck it. I’m like Tim Taylor.”
Not the former Boston Bruins center, either.
“Like the ‘Home Improvement’ guy,” he said. “Christmas came and we had to put together a basketball net. I had to get my son and son-in-law to put most of it together. Then I had to call [Ducks assistant coach] Bob Woods over and put together the rest of it.
“I am just useless at that sort of thing.”
The lockout, it seems, ended just in time for everyone.