Updated: Two decades later, NHL Draft once again proves special for Boughner in return to Red Wings

Updated: Two decades later, NHL Draft once again proves special for Boughner in return to Red Wings


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More than two decades later the NHL Draft once again proved memorable for Windsor’s Bob Boughner and the Detroit Red Wings.

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The former majority owner and head coach of the Windsor Spitfires, Boughner never played for the Red Wings after being a second-round pick by the club in 1989. However, Boughner returned to the club again on Friday just hours before the second day of the NHL Draft got underway when he was named associate coach under new Detroit head coach Derek Lalonde.

“Right in my own backyard is like a dream come true,” the 51-year-old Boughner said Friday of returning to the Red Wings.

Boughner was a member of one of Detroit’s most famous draft classes that included third-round pick Nicklas Lidstrom, fourth-round pick Sergei Fedorov, sixth-round pick Dallas Drake and 11th-round pick Vladimir Konstantinov. That draft class went on to play nearly 6,000 combined NHL games.

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A rugged defenceman, Boughner logged 630 games over parts of 10 seasons in the NHL with Buffalo, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Carolina and Colorado, but still recalls hearing his name called by the Red Wings in 1989.

“It was at the old rink in Minnesota (the Met Center in Bloomington) and my parents were there,” Toughener said. “Jimmy D. (Devellano), Nick Polano and Jacques Demers.

“I still have the jersey (after being drafted). I have it in storage now, but it’s framed and I used to have it on my wall.”

Boughner recalls talking to former Red Wings captain and current general manager Steve Yzerman back in those early days at training camp in Flint.

The two reconnected less than a week ago after Boughner was let go as head coach of the San Jose Sharks after parts of three seasons and the two reminisced about those days.

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“It was funny when we started talking,” Boughner said. “I got fired five-six days ago and my phone started ringing a little with teams trying to fill out staffs.”

This is the first NHL head coaching job for Lalonde, who was looking for someone with NHL experience to be his associate coach.

“I knew from our first conversation that we had a lot in common with the way we saw the game,” Boughner said of Lalonde. “It just seemed like a good fit.”

Upon retiring in 2008, Boughner purchased the Spitfires with Warren Rychel and Peter Dobrich and he took over the head coaching duties.

Despite no coaching experience, Boughner became the winningest coach in franchise history compiling a 282-213-49 record in eight seasons. He was twice named Canadian Hockey League coach of the year and guided the club to its first two Memorial Cup titles in 2009 and 2010.

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After the 2010 Memorial Cup, Boughner joined the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets as an assistant coach for the 2010-11 season, but returned to the Spitfires the following season for another four years.

He left the club a second time in 2015 to become an assistant coach under former Spitfire Pete DeBoer with the San Jose Sharks, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup final in 2016.

In 2017, Boughner was named head coach of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. However, the club failed the make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and he was let go despite a 80-62-22 record.

Boughner rejoined DeBoer in San Jose in 2019 and was promoted to head coach in December of 2019 when DeBoer was fired. In parts of three seasons, Boughner posted a 67-85-23 with San Jose, but the team failed to make the playoffs and he was let go last week ahead of the hiring of a new general manager.

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Boughner could have sat out the season with a year left on his contract with the Sharks, but that was never his plan.

“It’s not really in my DNA,” Boughner said. “I like working. I like coming to the rink.”

He’ll work with a Detroit defence that features rookie of the year winner Moritz Seider along with Filip Hronek and a several promising players in the system including 2021 first-round pick Simon Edvinsson.

“I was very honest with Detroit,” Boughner said. “I want to be part of a great organization with good people. That was the first box I wanted to check. The second box I wanted was to get back east and closer to the family.

“I thought of being able to work with a team that’s young and on its way up, try to help them take that next step and support Derek.”

Along with Boughner, the Red Wings announced the hiring of Alex Westlund as the team’s new goaltending coach. The 46-year-old Westlund has spent the past five season with the Washington Capitals organization.

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