Dear Mr. Boucher,
Firstly, congratulations on your new head coaching position with the Senators! It must be amazing to be coaching in the NHL for the second time. You sound extremely excited to get started, and I wish you the best.
Before you begin working with this organization, you should know that before you were hired, many fans were clamouring for the hiring of Bruce Boudreau, with myself included. After he was hired by Minnesota on Saturday night, I think it's safe to say that fans of the team went into panic mode, worrying that we would not be getting a good coach again.
You see, since the Jacques Martin era, the longest tenured coach with Ottawa is Paul MacLean and he only lasted 3 and 1/3 seasons here. We have been through a carousel of coaches that have proven to be not up to snuff, as there have been six of them since the lockout. Before Pierre Dorion hired you, almost everybody wanted the team to hire someone with actual NHL experience, because previous hires have been unproven, and many of us have been getting tired of bad coaching (to go along with a mediocre roster). Because of this previous history, we knew the head coach for the 2016-17 Senators was going to be under a microscope.
Ever since your hiring though, I think almost everyone who follows the team has been impressed. You seem to be a very detailed coach who notices the little things with each individual player. The fact that you ultimately want a higher coach to player ratio makes me pretty optimistic that you will be able to get the attention of the dressing room and that you will get them to buy in.
Before you start the season, here are a few minor things that we are expecting as fans of the team:
- Centre the teams systems around Erik Kalrsson, since he plays half the game and dictates the play night in and night out. From your comments on Monday, this point seems encouraging. I have no doubt that you realize how dynamic of a player he is and that he doesn't need to "play more conservative."
"I will make sure everything that he brings will be focused on what he does best," says Boucher on Karlsson. Won't try to change him. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) May 9, 2016
- To not put "safe" guys in the top-six. No more of Alex Chiasson, Mark Borowiecki, Max McCormick, David Dziurznski, et al getting tons of minutes. It should not be hard to recognize who deserves more ice time as they are typically the ones that can produce offensively.
- To play Mike Hoffman the amount he deserves. Unless he is traded this summer, I think we can certainly expect this to happen. You coached him in the QMJHL and you referenced him as a "game-breaker" who is a great weapon on the power play. I hope his days in the bottom six are over for good, and we will be extremely disappointed if you fail in this category like Dave Cameron did.
Boucher has dropped Mike Hoffman's name so much today that it would be really weird if he weren't locked up this off-season.— Tyler Ray (@DefenseMinister) May 9, 2016
- Improve in the defensive end. The Senators have been abysmal defensively for years, and obviously a new coach can't change everything. However, with a few tweaks they can at least cut down on the number of shots against a bit. This is the teams biggest weakness, and I'm sure you have analyzed this. If you get the team to magically improve here you will be treated as a wizard.
- Don't be afraid to take risks. I feel like you won't have an issue with this one, as you seem like a coach who is innovative and thinks differently. So when we are down a goal late in the game, don't throw out Chris Neil because he's "safe" and will create traffic in front. Throw out Hoffman or Mika Zibanejad or a skilled player so they have another weapon out there. Don't be afraid that one of these players will make a mistake, because more often than not they will come through with a goal instead of give one up. This can be a coach's downfall, and I hope that you go for skill when creating the lineup every game.
- Improve the power play. You touched on this in the press conference, and I think you can certainly make some big changes. Their 26th ranked power play was surely going to get better by regression, but I hope that you can create a sustainable system that gives them an extra 5-10 goals a year.
- Be open to analytics. It seems like you are, although I have not seen specific comments from you on them. This team has been one of the last in the league to embrace an analytical approach, but things may be changing. If somebody has something to say, listen. I feel like Marc Crawford may have something to say via numbers, so he may hold some important information. All we ask is that you are open-minded about it.
There really is not a whole lot that we are expecting as a fanbase. Not all of the things I listed need to come true, but as long as you make sound lineup decisions and improve the teams possession numbers, you will be looked upon as a great coach for the Senators.
You certainly have a tough task ahead of you, but after hearing your thoughts on the team, I am confident that you can break the spell of short-lived coaches in Ottawa. Having said that, if you don't get off to a good start next year, things may get ugly. We want to see this team take the next step right away, and you are a coach that could take us there.
Deliver the results and you could be one of the best hires this franchise has seen.