Guy Boucher is a stopgap coach

He was always going to be fired at the end of the 2018-19 season

There has been a growing sentiment among Ottawa Senators fans, wondering what Guy Boucher could possibly have to do to get fired. After leading the Sens to within a goal of playing for the Stanley Cup in his first year behind the bench, last year’s team finished second-last in the NHL, and this year’s team is currently last in the NHL. Perhaps more importantly, the team deserves to be last in the NHL. They are this year’s worst team in shots against per game (36.6), after finishing 7th-last last season. Out of the league’s 20 worst players (min. 100 minutes) in 5v5 shot attempts (Corsi), Ottawa has seven this season (via Corsica). He insists on playing Cody Ceci 20+ minutes per night against other team’s top lines despite Ceci floundering. He preaches an archaic system of shot blocking that robs the Sens of possession, forcing the Sens to defend a lot and their goalies to steal games repeatedly. They have a bottom-10 penalty kill this season, after finishing bottom-10 in both powerplay and PK each of the last two seasons. His teams are consistently outshot, uncreative, and awful on special teams, depending on a goalie and a star player or two to steal games. All of that adds up to a coach who should be fired.

The thing is though, he was always going to be fired at the end of this season. Dorion was critical of Boucher at the end of last season, but then after a meeting at the end of April, Dorion said Boucher’s staff would get another chance. There’s no reason they should have been given another chance after last season’s terrible performance, but the reasons were clear. For starters, the Sens were planning to trade Erik Karlsson at all costs before the 2018-19 season started, and were planning to try a bunch of rookies in the NHL. It was going to be a lost season, and a terrible season for evaluating a new coach. There was no point in hiring a new coach to try to guide a hot mess that even management expected to finish near the bottom of the standings. The biggest reason of course was money — it’s no secret Melnyk is cash-strapped, and Boucher still had another year left on his contract. Instead of paying Boucher to sit at home for the season, Dorion decided he might as well coach the team.

We don’t know what was said between Dorion and Boucher at their meeting, but the most likely things are likely the most correct. My guess is that Dorion told Boucher that they couldn’t afford to fire him, and that if he’d commit to practising more and playing more young guys, he’d have a year in which he could showcase himself for future NHL coaching gigs with other teams. The Sens were planning to walk away at the end of the season, but he’d have every chance to demonstrate what he could do for somebody else. There was a minuscule chance Boucher would guide this team to playoff success and get offered an extension, but the most likely course of action was the Sens were committing to a lost season, and Boucher would be kept on as the coach. Some might wonder why Boucher would agree to this, but there are a couple reasons that occur to me. Mainly, he was on a contract and had to, and if he grumbled about it or even hinted something made him unhappy, teams would be even less likely to hire him in the future. Also, he may have taken the offer seriously to showcase himself for his next job.

So to everyone asking when Boucher will be fired, I’d recommend to relax. He won’t get fired in-season, because then they’d still have to pay him, and pay somebody else to take his spot. Back in 2011, the Sens lost an afternoon game against the Bruins on April 9th, and head coach Cory Clouston was fired that evening. If I were betting, I’d wager on Boucher being out of a job by the morning of April 7th, 2019.

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