The most important factor that Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was looking for in the team’s new head coach was a candidate that had prior NHL head coaching experience, which was something the organization’s previous three head coaches did not have. Although those three coaches did see some measure of success with their time in Ottawa, they did not do so consistently and thus did not last long in their first head NHL head coaching jobs.
In comes Guy Boucher, who meets the criteria of having been a head coach in the NHL before with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2010 to 2013. Like Ottawa’s recent coaches, he saw some success but could not maintain it. With the lessons learned from those seasons in addition to his time coaching for SC Bern in Switzerland, the hope is that he can lead the team to a more consistent level of success with the current core of players.
Ottawa’s main weakness was in the defensive zone and play without the puck, as the team allowed among the highest shots and goals against totals in the league. Watching the Senators play offense was very exciting, but their habitual cluelessness in trying to keep the puck away from their net caused fans, management and coaching staff plenty of frustration over the course of the season.
One of Boucher’s definitive traits as a coach is his defensive style. With the Lightning, he even frustrated his own players and bosses at times. There was the infamous moment in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers where he kept his players back while making the Flyers’ defenders wait for a forward to forecheck. The referees had to blow the play dead because neither side wanted to make the first move.
— Mike Le Couteur (@mikelecouteur) May 9, 2016
That moment was on the extreme side of the spectrum in terms of a defense-first mindset. However, when Boucher’s teams are at their best, their patience with staying back has translated into forcing turnovers and creating good offensive chances through forcing turnovers and attacking on the transition. His system has always gotten the most out of his players at first, yet sometimes it has caused them to become disengaged, hence why Boucher’s successes have not been constant. Despite pushing the Lightning beyond their skills on paper in 2010-11, he lost his job two seasons later since he could not duplicate his feats under higher expectations. He did the same with SC Bern in the Swiss A league in 2014-2015, but again could not bring them to the playoffs a second time.
Although Jon Cooper has done a wonderful job in Tampa, Guy Boucher did not have players such as Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Anton Stralman and goaltender Ben Bishop in his lineup. While a coach can teach his players to properly work together and become a strong cohesive unit, scoring goals is dependent more on natural ability, chemistry and depth.
With the Ottawa Senators, Boucher will have more young talent like that to work with than he did during his time in Tampa, with players such as Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, Erik Karlsson and maybe Mike Hoffman. If he can instill into them a proper defensive system to better neutralize the opposing offense and translate that into an effective transition game to maintain the team’s offense, Ottawa will undoubtedly improve.
Guy gets a Boucher of Crawford
Joining Boucher behind the Ottawa bench will be former NHL coach and fellow Swiss League coach Marc Crawford. Like Jacques Martin in Pittsburgh, Crawford will bring many years of NHL head coaching experience as an assistant coach, providing a mentor’s support and seniority. Although Crawford was more successful in the Swiss League, leading the Zurich Lions to the championship in 2013-14, Senators management chose the younger coach that they feel would better interact with this generation of players.