I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about Craig Berube, Bruce Cassidy, and Mike Sullivan in relation to Bob Boughner.
And I get why lifting the interim tag off a head coach who went 14-20-3 for the 29th-best team in NHL wasn’t exactly the most exciting hire that Doug Wilson could make.
But let’s keep an open mind?
Frank Seravalli wrote, the day after Berube took over St. Louis on November 19, 2018: “Naturally, the temporary tag attached to Berube led to rampant overnight speculation about whether the Blues might bring back Joel Quenneville.”
Boston’s promotion of Bruce Cassidy from the AHL on February 7, 2017 sparked memories of his disastrous NHL head coaching debut with the Capitals from 2002-04:
Actually, Penguins pundits and fans received Sullivan’s promotion from the AHL with open arms on December 12, 2015, if only because they were tired of Mike Johnston. But much like Cassidy, it had been been a long time since Sullivan’s last NHL go-around in Boston in 2005-06.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) December 12, 2015
Point is, in each situation, there were more high-profile candidates for the job — but it didn’t matter in the end.
Of course, Berube and Sullivan delivered Stanley Cup championships immediately after taking over. Even Cassidy made the 2017 playoffs, losing to Erik Karlsson’s Ottawa Senators in the first round. Meanwhile, Boughner failed to drag the San Jose Sharks into even a 24-team playoffs.
But there’s also no doubt that Berube, Sullivan, and Cassidy were dealt better hands than Boughner, especially in terms of forward depth and goaltending.
Who Else Did Wilson Interview?
Wilson wouldn’t offer a number when asked how many head coaching candidates that he interviewed for this position:
“Going way back to when I first took this job, I did really extensive coaching searches because you learn from listening.
“I talked to a lot of people over the years; I talked to a lot of people this year.
“I was very transparent that Bob was probably the front-runner.”
It’s curious to note, however, that no other names have surfaced.
When Wilson hired Peter DeBoer in May 2015, Dan Bylsma, Randy Carlyle, Adam Oates, and Dave Lowry were among the reported bridesmaids.
It’ll be interesting to see if any other candidates are revealed in the coming months.
Stats, Stats, Stats
As far back as April, Boughner was speaking on his own behalf: “Before the coaching change, we were 30th in the league giving up odd-man rushes. You can say whatever you want about the goaltending. In the second half of the season, after we switched things around, we were eighth in odd-man rushes against.”
Per SPORTLOGiQ, San Jose surrendered 4.84 Even Strength Odd-man Rushes Per Game under DeBoer, 29th in the NHL. They improved to 3.23 a game under Boughner, good for 10th in the NHL. The defensively-sound Islanders and Bruins were among the league’s best in this category, underscoring its importance.
The Sharks also blocked more shots. The DeBoer-led team blocked 28.6 percent of Even Strength Opposition Shot Attempts, which was 17th in the league. The Boughner-led team blocked 31.2 percent, third in the NHL. The Islanders and Blue Jackets were among the league’s best in this category, once again underscoring its importance.
“We saw a marked improvement in our play in several key areas during the second half of the season,” Wilson said yesterday, “before losing some key players to injury.”
Indeed, Karlsson, Logan Couture, and Tomas Hertl were all felled by what proved to be season-ending injuries.
As I noted yesterday, Wilson appeared to be “giving Boughner credit for defensive improvements, while citing [injuries] for the corresponding offensive decline.”
So let’s put that theory to a quick-and-dirty small sample size test: How did the Sharks fare with Karlsson, Couture, and Hertl in the line-up under Boughner? Then let’s look at how they did with Karlsson and Couture or Hertl playing — and finally, missing at least two of this trio of star players.
|Date (Personnel)||Games Played||Record||Goals/Game||Goals Against/Game||ES Corsi For %||PP %||PK %||5v5 Adjusted xGF %|
|12/12/19-1/7/20 (with Karlsson/Couture/Hertl)||12||4-5-3||2.67||3.08||49.1||18.5||89.7||48.4|
|1/9-1/29/20 (with Karlsson/Hertl)||7||3-4-0||2.14||3.29||51.5||14.3||73.7||53.2|
|2/1-3/11/20 (with one or none)||18||7-10-1||2.56||2.89||51.1||20.8||82.1||52.3|
These findings, of course, are inconclusive and misleading. Are we to conclude, for example, that the San Jose Sharks power play, rocking a 20.8 percent after Hertl’s season-ending knee injury, was better off without him (or Karlsson)?
But it’s interesting (and once again, take this with a grain of salt) that with a healthier line-up, Boughner’s Sharks scored 2.67 Goals Per Game, pretty much matching DeBoer’s 2.69, while cutting the goals against from 3.41 under DeBoer to 3.08. There’s a hint that Boughner was doing more with less than DeBoer.
Also, the year-end figures without Karlsson and Hertl are promising and suggest that Boughner was indeed finding a way to field a more competitive San Jose squad, even with the wave of injuries.
Can you hear it in the air?
It’s Doug Wilson, channeling John Lennon — all we are saying is give Bob a chance.
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