The Ottawa Senators have their man. Just not their first choice.
Mere hours after Bruce Boudreau was officially announced as the next head coach of the Minnesota Wild – who intensified talks with the highly sought after coach following his meeting with Sens GM Pierre Dorion – the Sens announced the hiring of former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher as their new bench boss.
The move ends weeks of speculation and questions surrounding the coaching vacancy, with the Sens having already interviewed a host of other candidates, including Mike Yeo – the man whom Boudreau replaces in Minnesota and who was thought to be Ottawa’s second choice – as well as Marc Crawford, Kevin Dineen and Randy Carlyle (as reported by Bruce Garrioch).
Boucher has spent the past three seasons coaching Bern in the Swiss-A League where he amassed a 44-29-5 record spread over three seasons (one full season, one in which was a mid-season replacement and one in which he was replaced mid-season). In his only full season as head coach he took Bern to the playoffs, losing out in the second round.
Prior to his tenure with Bern Boucher, as mentioned, was head coach of the NHL’s Lightning for 2.5 seasons, getting replaced after 31 games in the 48-game lockout-shortened 2012/13 season. With Tampa he compiled a 97-78-20 record, taking his team to the conference final in just his first season behind the bench – a feat that would later set him up for failure.
In Ottawa, Boucher takes over at a time of great turbulence after the team once again missed the playoffs – the second time they’ve done so in three years and third time in the last six years. To get the Sens back to the post-season at all he’ll have to address a number of issues, first and foremost being the team’s limp defence.
No matter if you tend toward traditional stats or advanced analytics, the numbers don’t paint a pretty picture in Ottawa: 26th in Corsi For per cent at five-on-five (47.4) and last in shots against per game (32.8). Ottawa will no doubt be hoping for better results with a full season of Dion Phaneuf-Cody Ceci on the back end, but there are still plenty of other issues to occupy Boucher.
Among the many challenges he is sure to face, one of the biggest and most important will be figuring out a way to create a more defensively responsible team, while not stifling the natural offensive inclinations of his new weapon on the back end – two-time (soon-to-be three-time perhaps?) Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Erik Karlsson.
Before he does anything, though, Boucher will need to hire a full compliment of assistants after André Tourigny, Jason Smith and Rick Wamsley were relieved of their coaching duties when Dave Cameron was fired. Boucher and his staff will likely want some input on the roster moves to be made this off-season, so look for Boucher to add to the hiring of Marc Crawford before July 1.