Question of the Week: Evaluating The Coaching Staff

The Raw Charge "Question of the Week" is a weekly feature that poses a question to Raw Charge writers and sometimes other writers within the Boltosphere, discussing the ins and outs of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Guy Boucher was a highly touted choice for coach this season. His hiring, along with that of GM Steve Yzerman, was seen as a major score for a team trying to rebuild its credibility on and off the ice. Everyone talked about Boucher's education in psychology, his innovative ways of dealing with players off the ice and his forward-thinking systems. He also had a great track record in major junior hockey and in the AHL. But even so, this is his first NHL coaching job.

This season the Lightning have performed at least to preseason expectations, and have even spent time in first place in the division. They have also suffered stunning blowout losses, given up far more goals than a playoff team should, and stumbled their way through an ugly March swoon.

Through all the ups and downs the team has seen this year,  how do you rate the performance of first year coach Guy Boucher and his staff?

The answers from our staff are below the jump.  Leave a comment and answer our poll!

Clark Brooks - Staff / Clark Brooks' Blog

Any time a team is in first place, especially a team that has been as awful as the Lightning were prior to this season, you've got to grade the coach an A, and that's the grade I'd have given prior to March. Factoring in the fact that it's Boucher's first year in the league tempted me to to push it to A+. But the performance this month has been...troubling. Especially the failure to get the job done against non-contenders like Ottawa. I'm a big believer in beating the teams you should beat, especially when it's crunch time and the Lightning simply haven't done it.
I still feel the future is bright for Boucher and the Lightning but this month was a test that they failed and that has to affect their grade. So I'm dropping it to a B+, but no lower than that.

Matt Amos - Staff / Don't Trade Vinny

As much as I wish that a professional coach could be graded simply on the Win-Loss column, in today's media heavy world, it's just not realistic. 

That being said, I think coach Guy Boucher and staff get a resounding A for this season.  Not only have they gotten they Lightning back into the playoffs for the first time in four years, they did so battling through key and sometimes lengthy injuries, and a porous stretch of goaltending.  And while I still don't think the defense fully understands the system, everyone on the team is buying in to what they are doing. 

To get back to my initial point, the entire coaching staff has been gracious and entertaining in interviews all season.  Boucher, as intimidating as he can be, is one of the most straight forward guys in the league.  Direct and intimidating, but not off putting and sometimes just plain mean like John Tortorella.  (I still miss ya)
John Fontana - Staff
I grade Coach Boucher about a B for his first NHL season.  Honestly, the immediate thoughts of Boucher's style is to contrast it with former Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet and his immediate predecesor:  ESPN personality and former NHL head coach Barry Melrose.  Melrose tenure was a disaster while Tocchet's blunt-object style as coach did not work with the players.

But we're not talking about Melrose or Tocchet, we're talking Guy Boucher.  The guy who only coached one season of pro hockey before becoming head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  

Boucher says all the right things, he has a rapport with his players and knows what he wants.  He's got a good relationship with his general manager.  

But he's a rookie head coach, and rookies make mistakes.  Guy would admit so much -- little things more than big things though.  

There's another reason why I rate him a B -- to encourage him to do better.  That's what he's all about.  Figure it out, Guy:  Why didn't I give you the A?  Think about those little missteps (in the shootout; overuse of line combos in important situations, the failures on special teams) and try to figure out how to improve.

Meredith Qualls - Staff

There's really no question here - Guy Boucher has been the defining characteristic of the Lightning this year. His insistence on work ethic has is seen play for play every game, and his belief in depth can be seen in the unsung heroes of this team. Boucher's player to player mentality that has driven each player to find a role within the team has been the start for younger players like Dana Tyrell and Sean Bergenheim, but has also pushed the leaders to their fullest potential. It's why Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier have transitioned into assets, even if they aren't scoring goals every game. Today, the Lightning is relentless, but are undoubtedly the product of their relentless leader. 

Dani Toth - Staff / Lightning Hockey Blog

I had assumed that Boucher would at least have a better season than what we saw last year, and not just for the reason that Tocchet was a coach. I think that being under the management group of Yzerman, there was a certain expectation of moderate success to occur. What we saw this year was far better than my expectations since at one point, Boucher could have had a shot at the Jack Adams trophy for his accomplishment this year. So ignoring the past few games, the overall season was a very successful first year for Boucher et al. What will be curious, will be to see how much success the team has in the playoffs and how him and his team adapts their strategies (if they do at all).
(Nolan Whyte blogs on the Lightning at Frozen Sheets Hockey)
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