The Tampa Bay Lightning have been free-falling after a 6-1 start, and it ended up costing head coach Guy Boucher his job.
While not exactly unexpected, it wasn’t the right move given this season’s circumstances. Yes, this team has loads of talent and came within one goal of playing for the Stanley Cup in 2011, but issues still remained. The goaltending was streaky at best, with Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon notoriously giving up two or more goals regularly.
Defense didn’t help either, as off-season additions Matt Carle and Eric Brewer often turned the puck over. Offensive leaders Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos also weren’t completely showing up, making uncharacteristic mistakes that more often than not ended up behind their own netminder.
Some other factors, primarily the NHL lockout and injuries, also didn’t work in Boucher’s favor. A 48-game season makes victories more important, and the Lightning had trouble earning those following their sizzling 6-1 start. Plus, only a week of training camp didn’t give new guys a chance to mesh with the team.
Then there’s the injuries. Currently, three top six forwards — Benoit Pouliot, Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone — along with the starting goalie Lindback are on injured reserve. This would be tough for any team, even the most offensively gifted, to survive.
The timing of the firing couldn’t have been worse as well, given the fact Tampa Bay had to play a game in Winnipeg Sunday night. Honestly, that game was difficult to watch because, as much as they tried to hide it, today’s news really shook the players up. With that being said, they were professional and fought hard, but the end result (a loss) stayed the same.
Much of this was not Boucher’s fault, yet he’s the one that gets canned. What happened to players being held accountable for their roles in the team’s losses? More than that, what happened to general manager Steve Yzerman‘s long-term plan? He said upon being hired that long-term success was going to be the Lightning’s main goal.
However, he didn’t even give the head coach he chose and hired three full years to prove himself. In my opinion, that’s a raw deal.
Either way, the Lightning must now move quickly to find a replacement. Early rumors have Syracuse Crunch coach Jon Cooper or former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff as front-runners. Both would be good, but the decision needs to be made soon because Tampa Bay still has a slim chance of making the postseason.