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Burning Questions: Guy Boucher

Recently, I was reading a report by Mike Ozanian, a sports money analyst for Forbes.com. He calculated the total team values of NHL franchises after the 2011-2012 season. As one would expect, the Maple Leafs, Rangers, and Canadiens were among the most valuable, with Toronto even managing to break the one billion dollar mark.

Along the way, he unearthed some very interesting discoveries as well. For example, five teams—including the Lightning—have to make it to the second round of the playoffs just to breakeven.

This brings up the age-old debate of relocating small-market hockey teams.  It is only logical to think that teams who have to make it to the last eight simply to make a profit are not following a smart business plan. With the early success of the Winnipeg Jets in the rearview mirror, teams such as the Lightning, Coyotes, Hurricanes, and Ducks are suddenly in the crosshairs of empty hockey markets like Quebec, Portland, and Seattle.

Personally, under Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik, I believe the franchise is not going anywhere. A successful businessman such as Vinik, who also owns the Tampa Bay Storm (AFL) and part of the Boston Red Sox (MLB), would not make such a business investment if he did not think it could pay off.

Since purchasing the team in 2010, he has seen attendance increase from 15,500 to 18,500, according to Ozanian, while nursing the third-lowest average ticket price in the league. With a new GM, coach, and recently remodeled arena, I believe the Lightning is here to stay.

However, in the world of the NHL lockout, I highly recommend checking out Ozanian’s piece. There are many interesting financial tidbits that add a little perspective to this ongoing work stoppage. Now on to the burning question!

Burning Question Number 3:

Will Guy Boucher’s job be at risk if the Lightning is not successful when the lockout finally does end?

After a thrilling season in Boucher’s first year on the job, where the Bolts came within a goal of the Stanley Cup Finals, 2011-2012 was not as successful. They finished 10th in the Eastern Conference, eight points out of a playoff spot.

With another 19-point drop-off deemed unacceptable by GM Steve Yzerman, Tampa made some serious moves in the summer of 2012. Benoit Pouliot, Anders Lindback, Matt Carle, Sami Salo, and BJ Crombeen helped the Lightning to fill several key needs heading into 2012.

After reloading the team with deeper, younger, and tougher talent, Yzerman surely expects a playoff bid when the season resumes. If Boucher can’t take the revamped roster into the postseason, will Vinik simply buy out the last year of Boucher’s contract and send him home packing?

I say yes. If Boucher can’t take the stockpile of newly assorted talent and put the puzzle together this season, I believe his head is on the chopping block. With Yzerman’s reputation as an intelligent hockey mind continuing to build, I believe the onus would be on Boucher if the Bolts are unsuccessful.

But will they be? For the answer to that and other Burning questions, tweet or e-mail me @GainesTaylor or at tgaines@tampabay.rr.com.

AHL Update

The Syracuse Crunch is in the midst of a month-long stretch where they play a back-to-back-to-back every weekend. Through the first two BBB’s, the Crunch is 5-1, tallying 10 of a possible 12 points…Syracuse is all alone is first place in the Eastern Conference with 26 points, two ahead of the Springfield Falcons…Tyler Johnson leads the AHL in goals (13) and the Crunch in points (20)…The Crunch are impeccable on the road, with a 9-0-0-1 record…This weekend, the Crunch will take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday, the Connecticut Whale Saturday, and the Binghamton Senators Sunday.

Taylor Gaines
Tampa Bay Lightning fan pursuing a career as a journalist at the University of Florida.
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