Tampa Bay Lightning coach
The rookie coach studied sports psychology, biosystems engineering, environmental biology and history at McGill University. Now he is working on his Ph.D. in NHL time management.
Boucher, who bristles with theories, is doing nothing less dramatic than resetting players' biological clocks.
For the past decade or so, NHL coaches generally viewed the ideal shift as lasting 45 seconds. They preached the holy 45, tailoring practices and concocting drills to spread the gospel. When
Most players grasped the wisdom of short shifts better than their progenitors. The average shift length morphed from essentially forever in the
Now the 39-year-old Boucher demands that the average shift for the Lightning should last 30 to 35 seconds.
This sounds like a McShift, a cameo appearance more than a full shot at making something happen. Of course, these are idealized numbers. Given where the puck is and what is happening on the ice, bolting for the bench isn't always an option. But this is Boucher's thought process: in the NHL's hurry-up world, if you are playing with the speed and intensity he expects, your body will be screaming "Get off!" after 35 seconds.
The task of getting players to adjust their personal clocks has fallen, in part, to
In the interval training that all teams do to replicate the cardiovascular demands of a game, Lobe has quickened the pace. He also has helped players learn more about rest and recovery in the 90 seconds that they will have on the bench, assuming that Boucher is rolling four lines. Lobe says some players can take their heart rates down from 170 to 115 in a minute and a half.
"The 35-second shift is something the body can adapt to," he said. "If you've been training for 45 seconds, you can get it down. It's not like the old two-minute shifts dropping to 45 (seconds). That was a whole new ball game."
As Lightning forward
But the 35-second rule is only one aspect of what makes Boucher a coach to watch. The man knows his mind.
For example, Boucher doesn't want any of his forwards to average more than 20 minutes of ice time. This is hardly a radical theory for four-line teams -- Detroit tends to spread its ice time around even though
With Yzerman's blessing, Boucher, the 2010 AHL Coach of the Year while working with Montreal's farm team, even made fascinating choices for his assistant coaches. He imported his Hamilton staff, including
Anyway, Boucher has gotten nothing but rave reviews. Lightning players have gushed about his energy and attention to detail. (Ex-Hamilton player
To borrow a
So what do Florida goalie
Of course, the biggest potential UFA came off the market last weekend when
Given the huzzahs lavished on Thornton for taking the extension at substantially less than maximum cap money -- currently 20 per cent of $59.4 million -- you would have thought his signature on a contract constituted the most charitable act since Haitian earthquake relief. Yes, Thornton probably left a few dollars on the table, although that presumably will enable San Jose GM
Thornton is comfortable in San Jose, the money was fair -- albeit it not Richards' current $7.8 million -- so he stayed.
End of story ... except this story is about Thornton and comfort.
Thornton, then with the Bruins, was flying to the 2002 All-Star Game in Los Angeles on a Friday morning after having played a match the previous night in Montreal. His seat was 16E. I know this because I was in 16D, delighted to have an unoccupied middle until Jumbo galumphed onto the plane just before the doors closed. I apologized, told him I'd consider switching seats, but because I was claustrophobic and ... "Nah, no problem," Thornton said, folding his 6'-4" frame into the three across. "I'll probably sleep most of the way." Which, after yakking for maybe 20 minutes, he did.
I'm not sure which stretches credulity more: an uncomplaining Thornton or a league that sends players cross-continent to its All-Star Game in coach.