Getting an Expert's Opinion on Guy Boucher
Silver Seven interviews Damian Cristodero - the Tampa Bay Times' Lightning beat writer during the Boucher era - as we get the inside track on the Senators' new head coach.
Damian Cristodero, a former Lightning beat writer at the Tampa Bay Times, shares his knowledge of Senators head coach Guy Boucher during his tenure with Tampa Bay.
On Boucher's final days with the Lightning:
"There were a couple of things going on. At the time he was fired, the team just looked completely awful. I don't even remember the losing record that they had, but the team looked listless, it didn't seem like the effort was there and it seemed like they had really tuned out at that point. Yzerman watched the games and said 'it just can't continue this way.' The team just wasn't improving, and as a matter of fact, they seemed like they were regressing. After missing the playoffs and looking at another non-playoffs season, that's just something you can't have. There was the theory that he had lost the room, especially among some of the older players."
On Boucher's unique defensive systems:
"Part of it goes back to the style of play. He had that defensive zone coverage - which, at the time, people were touting that it was so innovative - in which his two defensemen would go after the puck carrier, leaving the front of the net to be defended by the forwards. It was innovative at the time, but very controversial. It just seemed like while the team did well that first year, it seemed like other teams started catching on to that strategy, and there wasn't any kind of push back to get ahead of the curve again. And there was a lot of talk about the veterans just not buying into that system anymore, so he kind of lost that part of the room."
On poor goaltending being a factor in the coach's firing:
"On the other side of it, you had Steve Yzerman who had made so few mistakes with the Lightning, but the goaltending decisions that year were just not good. Lindback and Garon just weren't working out and mistakes were ending up in the back of the net. So the other side of the Boucher argument is essentially that he wasn't given the best hand to work with. But for me, it was clear by the end that whatever was going on, whatever the reasons were, the team was just not playing well at all and it just seemed like the effort was lacking, it seemed like the focus was lacking and they just couldn't continue that way."
On if Boucher, a defensively minded coach, can handle an offensively driven team like the Senators:
"There are lessons that a coach learns over time. The criticism was that he didn't adjust back with the Lightning. But now he goes through several years in Switzerland. I'm assuming that over that time he becomes more experienced coaching men, coaching professional players. And he's a smart guy, so I'm sure he's been able to adapt with his approach. I would be really surprised if you saw the same kind of approach with the Senators that you did with the Lightning. The Lightning didn't have that kind of dynamic play from the back end that the Senators have. Like I said, a smart guy and smart enough to understand the assets that he has. I would be really surprised if there would be too much of an emphasis on holding the defense back. I'm sure that his philosophy and his approach has evolved over the last three years or so. I would bet you'd see a more dynamic approach to allowing what will come from his defenders."
On if Boucher is the right man for the job, looking at the other candidates:
"You have guy who has coached in the league, who has coached a team to some success, clearly, and who is now a little more seasoned as a coach. And like I said, he's a smart guy. Putting all those things together, you're maybe taking a little bit of a risk, in the sense that he hasn't been in the NHL lately. But I think you are dealing from a position of strength in the sense that you have someone who probably is a lot more sophisticated as a coach and a lot more sophisticated in how to handle players at this point. So I think it's a great hire for the Senators. He's got something to prove, and he's going to be a determined and focused guy. He's going to get the most he can out of the guys that he has."