As we all know by now, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher has been relieved of his coaching duties. That may not surprise anyone, considering how the team is playing, but the timing might have. Regardless, speculation is now being thrown around as to who is to blame for the state of the team.
And the answer to that is everyone. From owner Jeff Vinik to general manager Steve Yzerman to Boucher to the players - they're all to blame. No one gets out of this one unscathed.
From the start, Boucher had an unconventional system. But, also from the start, about half of the veterans didn't buy into it. A big reason why there were so many odd-man rushes against the Lightning were because at any given time, you had some veterans playing the game the way they've always played it, instead of playing it Boucher's way.
Now, you can blame coaching for that, if you'd like, but the fact of the matter is that the younger guys did what they were told and some of the older guys did not. I think it's more about not wanting to (or, perhaps, being able to) change their game than coaching. But, perhaps that's just me.
The fact that the Norfolk Admirals (at the time) under head coach Jon Cooper were running that same system successfully points it to being a player issue, not a coaching issue.
So you have, on the one hand, an almost flawlessly executed Guy Boucher game plan at the AHL affiliate level, and a morass of death, destruction, and despair at the NHL level. It doesn't make sense that Boucher couldn't pull off his own system, if he had the right personnel. So, the disconnect was almost certainly at the player level.
Boucher, like most coaches, probably wanted a 100% buy-in by the players. So, he changed his system to better accommodate the veterans, which didn't exactly work, either. And that's where the coaching issues popped up. Boucher didn't really have a successful secondary plan of attack after his initial one had been dismissed by some veteran players.
So, you have the coaching and the veteran side of things starting to crumble. This is where Yzerman could've fixed things with trades. But, he didn't. Or, maybe, he couldn't.
Yzerman's been strong when it comes to picking up undrafted prospects and forwards. But he's been not so great with defensemen and goaltenders. While it's true that it's more difficult to find good defensemen and goaltenders since both positions are at a premium around the league, even still, the chemistry between the defensemen has never been that great.
And I won't even get into the goalie coaching issues. If you want more on that, talk to Clare Austin. She can give you a dissertation on it.
Vinik, has been very hands off - or, at least, presumably so. He'd stated from the outset of hiring Yzerman that Yzerman would have full control. Which begs the question as to the timing of this whole ordeal. The Lightning's season is all but over, so why fire Boucher now and not wait until the season is over?
Well, Yzerman hasn't exactly covered himself with glory thus far. Boucher's not the only one who needed to show results. It's likely that his own position is being looked at critically as well, and he probably had to do something to improve his own standing with the team.
I think it's fair to say at this point that the honeymoon is definitely over, Mr. Yzerman, and your next move is going to be regarded very, very carefully by the fan base.