The Tampa Bay Lightning are one loss away from sitting alone in the Eastern Conference basement, but it’s not time to fire head coach Guy Boucher.
There are many reasons behind this thinking, with the most notable being his early success. Boucher was hired by Tampa Bay prior to the 2010-2011 season and played a large role in helping turn things around, leading them to 103 points after finishing the previous year at 80. As if that wasn’t enough, he saw the team completely erase a three games to one deficit in 2011’s quarterfinal round against the Stanley Cup favorite Pittsburgh Penguins. They then proceeded to easily dispatch the Washington Capitals before falling one game (and goal) short versus the eventual Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Another thing that stands out is Boucher’s overall success given all circumstances. While his record (94-75-20) in 189 games with the Lightning isn’t wonderful he did, during his tenure, lose almost an entire training camp and half a season due to lockout. No, that doesn’t excuse their free-fall after a sizzling 6-1 start, but it does make gelling as a team more difficult.
Boucher also can’t be held accountable for injuries which plagued this Lightning team over the past year and a half. There were nearly 200 man games lost to injury last season and this year doesn’t look much better, with forwards Benoit Pouliot and Ryan Malone, along with defensemen Sami Salo and goaltender Mathieu Garon already missing time.
He can’t buy the team luck either, even though bad bounces have contributed to a large number of recent Lightning losses. On most nights, outplaying an opponent should practically make a win automatic, but it doesn’t. That causes havoc regarding confidence and, combined with our current shaky goaltending and defense, is enough to be disastrous.
I truly believe Boucher is a good coach that knows how to maximize player potential while still building a winning team. That, along with a young core and highly talented farm system, makes me believe this Lightning team can make playoff noise again in the near future.