I felt compelled to write this article because there seems to be a lot of division among Tampa Bay Lightning fans. On one hand, you have people vehemently supporting Boucher and, quite frankly, getting testy with those who suggest his job status is in jeopardy. The other half, from what I’ve seen, isn’t necessarily calling for Boucher’s head, but rather is floating the possibility of him being fired and getting shouted down by those who support him. I’m sure there are people out there saying “FIRE HIM NOW,” but I haven’t seen it personally.
Though I’m writing this article with as little of my opinion infused as I can, I will state that I am one of those floating the possibility. With the next two paragraphs I will state the information that is out there for both arguments and hopefully you, the reader, can see both sides of the coin.
Don’t fire: It’s true that Boucher is not the one turning the puck over at an alarming rate. He’s not the one kicking out juicy rebounds, nor is he the one that is on the ice directly affecting the result of the games. He’s a brilliant young coach and definitely the best coach the Lightning has had since John Tortorella. This Lightning team, though it has the pieces to play a lot better than it is currently, is a work in progress that was not thought of as a Cup contender. Therefore, these struggles should be viewed as growing pains and not a horrendous miscarriage of talent.
Open to firing: When a team is underachieving, who does the axe fall on? Sure, a superstar might be dangled on the trade block, but ultimately the players are the responsibility of the coaching staff. Where have Boucher’s tricks and smarts gone since his first season and the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals? This particular item concerns me the most – other than the overblown “1-3-1 game,” it seems that Boucher’s wizardry as a coach has faded into the background. The team never seems to adjust their schemes in-game anymore.
It’s worth noting, too, that Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix’s contracts expire at the end of this season. It’s very possible we could see the assistants cleaned out and Boucher given his last contract year to sort things out. My personal hope is for Boucher to stay, Jon Cooper to come up and coach the offense and a veteran coach to come in and run the defense. This team has never quite hummed along like it did when Wayne Fleming was healthy and we all know they are capable of it. Whatever happens, just remember that Jeff Vinik has money and Steve Yzerman has experience. We won’t see any Barry Melrose-esque hires ever again.