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Stevens, Boudreau hope hockey enthusiasm translates to Wild wins

Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau was driving through Albuquerque, New Mexico when he called Scott Stevens.

Boudreau was on a cross-country roadtrip from Anaheim to his home in Hershey, Pennsylvania when he decided to give Stevens a ring to chat about a vacancy on his new coaching staff.

“Initially we didn’t know where we were going to meet so I said, ‘why don’t I just come to your house. Give me the address, I’ll come to your house and I’ll be there by 2 p.m. on Sunday,’” Boudreau said. “Forty hours (driving) in the car wasn’t enough, so make it 43.” 

When Boudreau got to Stevens’ home in New Jersey he was immediately impressed. According to Boudreau, Stevens lives on 50 acres and takes care of the property himself.

“First thing I thought was ‘this guy’s work ethic is going to be second-to-none’ so he’s going to leave no stone unturned. Whether it’s working in the backyard or working in the rink,” Boudreau said. “There’s a reason this guy is as good as he was and it’s because of his work ethic and I don’t think that’s going to change at all.”

They then sat down for three hours to discuss strategy and as they continued to talk the thrill of possibility between them as business partners grew.

There were even points where Boudreau would find pieces of paper around Stevens' house to draw diagrams of plays and such.

“We were both getting excited about it, which just showed me we’re going to have some great conversations and we’ll be able to show the players how enthusiastic we are,” Boudreau said. “We should be able to make them feel enthusiastic as well.”

This meeting between these two excitable  hockey men, who had never worked together before, quickly became a common sense partnership – one that they hope can lift the Wild next season from underachievers to contenders. Boudreau called Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher and a deal with Stevens was reached.

The Wild also hired former Atlanta Thrashers coach John Anderson on Wednesday.

“It seems like Bruce has a way of getting the most out of players and making them feel important and making them feel a part of the team,” the 52-year-old Stevens said. “I can’t wait to see and be around a person like that and see what he does and how he pulls strings and how he makes people feel important and gets the most out of people.” 

Throughout the season, Boudreau had watched Stevens as an analyst on NHL Network and like the way Stevens explained the game.

“I was like, ‘man this guy is sharp and he’s telling it like it is and he’s not sugarcoating anything’ and it was really refreshing to listen to him,” Boudreau said. “It was analytically really good. He was right on – in my mind anyway – when he was talking about things.”

Then after Boudreau got the Wild job, Scott Niedermayer called and said to contact Stevens.

Niedermayer coached with Boudreau with the Anaheim Ducks and played with Stevens with the New Jersey Devils and believed both men could work well together. 

“The initial thought is, 'I’ve seen a lot of great hockey players not become good coaches,'” Boudreau said. “I thought that Scott’s presence, and when I had just finished listening to him on the NHL Network, I thought, ‘this would be an interesting call just to see if he’s interested’ so I did call him and he said he was interested.”

Stevens was in his first year as a television analyst with NHL Network, but missed the coaching grind. He liked the job and enjoyed his time there but missed being on the ice and missed helping players become better.

“The Network was outstanding and I had a great time. It was a great way to keep my foot in the door. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed trying to teach the audience and breaking film down and educating that way,” Stevens said. “I really want to try to be a part of a team and win a Stanley Cup as an assistant coach. I know everybody can say that but when I’m all in, I’m all in and this is something I'd maybe like to have the chance doing.”

Working at NHL Network also helped Stevens get over his recent time in New Jersey to a degree. He left the Devils’ coaching staff after two seasons as an assistant before the 2014-15 season. He then returned as a co-coach with Adam Oates after Peter DeBoer was fired late in 2014.

New Jersey then hired Ray Shero to replace longtime general manager Lou Lamoriello and Shero hired John Hynes as coach. Hynes and the Devils opted to not keep Stevens on staff. 

“I have nothing but great memories here in New Jersey – but it was a great way to stay in the game and work at the Network. It worked out very well for me living here and dealing with travel into Secaucus and do that job with all the great people there,” Stevens said. “That definitely get over not being with the Devils.”

Stevens, who is a Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman and a three-time Stanley Cup winning captain, was praised in New Jersey for helping defenseman Adam Larsson find his game.

The Wild’s defense has potential with talented youngsters like Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba along with veterans in their primes like Marco ScandellaRyan Suter and Jared Spurgeon.

There’s no doubt Stevens, who played 1,635 career games and had a plus-393 rating, will be asked to mold this group.

“They have a lot of great qualities,” Stevens said. “They’re a good skating group which is very exciting and we know how important good skating is in the NHL this day and age by watching the Pittsburgh Penguins. Speed is very important and it’s something that’s very exciting for me to work with a talented, speedy defense corps in Minnesota.”

Stevens’ biggest attribute may be his intangibles. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1999-200 was known as one of the fiercest competitors in recent league history. He always seemed to find another level in his game at crucial points.

But as a coach he has never had the chance to help a team on a deep run. He joined the Devils before the 2012-13 season when they lost captain Zach Parise in free agency the summer before.

Boudreau has come under fire for his struggles to win big games. Maybe Stevens’ competitive nature and demeanor could help in this regard.

“When you’ve had the success and he’s won three Cups, it’s not like ‘I’ve had enough, I don’t want to win anymore,’” Boudreau said. “You want to win more and that really came through in our conversations – his commitment to winning was really important.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

 

 

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