Asked recently to address the possibility of a certain coach paying the price for his team’s early struggles, one NHL exec answered with a question of his own.
“If he goes, who do you get to replace him? Is there someone out there who can do a better job? Because I don’t see him.”
Now there might be a guy.
The team’s decision to part with Boucher after less than two years isn’t entirely surprising. He announced just last week that he would not be back for the 2016-17 season, stating that he wanted to return to Canada where he could help care for his cancer-stricken mother. Although SC Bern said that had nothing to do with its decision, a lame-duck coach clearly wasn’t the best option to lift the 13-time champions out of ninth place in the 12-team league.
So now Boucher’s name enters the conversation for any NHL team that’s looking to make a change. Despite his recent failures, he has some skins on the wall. He led Drummondville of the QMJHL to the 2009 Memorial Cup Final. The next season he was recognized as the AHL’s Coach of the Year, an award that led to him being hired by the Lightning.
Boucher is broadly regarded as a player’s coach who has a knack with youngsters and whose strength lies in motivating individuals. “Managing people comes first on my list,” he said upon being hired by the Bolts in 2010. “If I have 24 players on my team, I need 24 ways to coach. ... I found out that if you care about the players, they will care about what you have to say after that.”
His players eventually stopped caring about his demanding systems, though. Generally regarded as a defense-first coach, Boucher probably is best remembered for employing a passive neutral zone trap that famously was exposed by the Flyers during a national broadcast. It made for some ugly hockey, but with Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson between the pipes and a roster filled with journeymen, it was probably his best option.
His Bern teams were said to be more aggressive in their puck pursuit, though still defensively sound. A team that’s looking to tidy up in its own end then might see Boucher as a viable option.
The 44-year-old will have at least one more chance to impress prospective employers. He’s expected to step behind the bench once again for Team Canada at next month’s Spengler Cup tournament. Boucher also coached the club in 2014, guiding the hastily arranged group of European-based players to the semifinals, where they were eliminated by the eventual champion, Geneve-Servette.