I love hockey.
I've followed the NHL (and the Lightning) since I was 8. I've played hockey for just as long. I still play. I aspire to have a job in hockey. As in a job I take to retirement. Writer, trainer, player, equipment manager, mascot, ANY job.
Being head coach/manager in any professional sport is a death trap. It's a job that requires all the family and personal sacrifice of being a player, with a quarter of the pay, a tenth of the credit when the team is successful, and 150% of the blame when the team isn't. It's a thankless job that requires a guy to manage egos more than strategy, media who have as much sport experience as coaches have privacy, and quicker turn around in expectation than politicians.
It's a profession that can see you sneak into the playoffs as the last seed on the last day of the season and earn some respect one year, and then fall out of the playoffs of the last day of the season the next and lose your job. And that's considered normal.
So, of course, with the Lightning toiling around the bottom third of the Eastern Conference this season, some people want Guy Boucher's head.
I'm not one of them. I think he's done a great job, and the only thing I would change is the one thing that's been supremely undocumented thus far in his tenure: his willingness to absolutely punish his players in practice.
Have you ever seen a report of Boucher absolutely bag-sake the hell of the Lightning? Me neither. Does that mean it hasn't happened? No. But that doesn't mean it has either. That's the one thing I'd change about him. That's it. Some public notification that he is not happy with the team's effort. Is that playing into the media's hand? Maybe. Is that being a good coach? Definitely.
I digress, but it does lead to this week's Question of the Week - open to both the Raw Charge staff and the Lightning Blogosphere: In general, I think most fans support Guy Boucher, and I certainly do, but if you could change just one aspect about how he's handled the team, what would it be?
Answers from the staff and Boltsosphere after the break. But let's hear yours in the comments, yeah?
Raw Charge Staff:
Clare Austin - Staff Writer
Pass. Inadequate information + instant analysis = me being a fool.
Clark Brooks - Staff Writer Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle of Consciousness
I'll be right up front and say that I'm a fan of Boucher so if my answers paint me as an apologist, so be it.
I suspect this question is at least partially inspired by his reliance on the twin buzzwords of injuries and adversity when discussing the team's poor performance. To that I would say, he's being asked the same questions. Shouldn't we expect the same answers? At least he's consistent.
Beyond that, I'd say I wish he could find the magic answer as to why it has been such a struggle to get 60 full minutes of effort from some of these guys. I don't think it's an attitude problem or else we wouldn't be seeing the comebacks. And actually there's been some improvement in that area so maybe he's found it already.
I'm not sure if I'm ready to judge Guy Boucher based on this season. I would give him a lot of leeway because of how our goaltending has worked out. If he had better goaltending and less injuries, I'm not sure we'd be at this place right now criticizing him.
That being said, one thing that drives me nuts is how many shorthanded goals we give up. This is not a this season problem either as it was prevalent last season as well, but the shorthanded goals in addition to being ranked 27th in the league for the power play should be something we can work on right?
John Fontana - Managing Editor / Raw Charge
I'm disappointed in Guy Boucher's attire. Seriously. For a coach who is color blind, I do not expect something so coordinated and tasteful as what Guy pulls off. If Don Cherry can make himself look color-blind with some of the outfits he wears on Hockey Night In Canada, why is Guy Boucher aiming so low with his fashion choices?
Okay, maybe it's the Bond Villain thing? If his clothing stood out more, he'd further rub people as taken from the pages of an Ian Fleming novel? Maybe that also explains why he doesn't carry a cat behind the bench? Hmmm...
Kidding aside, on a realistic note -- turnovers at the blue line and short handed goals have been habitual since Boucher took over in 2010. That's his one true shortcoming. I can live with his line changes, the 1-3-1, and I certainly don't blame him for this season. He's a convenient scapegoat if and when people look for things to blame. Boucher, nor his system, are not the reason why players have gotten hurt, goaltending has been inconsistent, and the Lightning have underperformed this season after over-performing last season.
And from the Boltosphere:
Chad Schnarr / Bolts Prospects:
He would use offensive players on the penalty kill more. He's increased how much Lecavalier, Stamkos, and St. Louis are on the kill lately, but that's mostly due to lack of trust for call-ups. The Lightning have been very poor in shorthanded opportunities over the past few years in part because they don't have the speed, hockey sense, or skill on the ice to generate that during the penalty kill. The reasoning is to keep the stars fresh, but there's a happy medium there somewhere that could be realized.
Alexis Boucher / Sons of Andreychuck:
Guy Boucher has done a great job in his year and a half behind the Lightning bench. I love that he takes a different approach to coaching and working with his players. I also fully admit that my main issue with his coaching is based on my personal preferences. I like physical hockey teams. Maybe not Boston Bruins physicality, but harder hitting and more aggressive in playing the body.
The 1-3-1 isn't employed all the time but it's a very passive style. I find myself getting impatient with it at times. Tortorella's fast, aggressive forechecking style probably spoiled me in that regard.
If I'm forced to think from a fan's perspective, I really don't have many complaints about Guy Boucher. This season, of course, the worrywarts have emerged and I can understand their frustrations given how high the bar was set last season. But let's not nitpick too much. After all, if I'm being honest, I still think last year's success was very much about a jolt in the collective confidence of everyone in the organization, stemming from a change in atmosphere that was so badly needed. That is't to say anyone should be satisfied with what appears to be following up as a non-playoff season.
So, what would I change about Guy, if I could?
As a general rule, I've never been a huge fan of the 7/11 mix of defensemen to forwards. And though I don't think Guy's been able to do that as much as he might like to this season, largely because of injuries, when your seventh d-man options aren't exactly guys that are automatic top-sixes on lesser teams, well, that lack of depth has been a problem all season, hasn't it?
But Guy's obviously a coach who thinks outside the box. Along those lines, I'd like to see forwards play together more regularly and develop some chemistry. Again, consistent injuries have prohibited this on many levels this season and there's obviously chemistry among the bigger guns but the Lightning has had so much fluctuation among the forward lines over the last few years, it shouldn't be much of a surprise at all to see as much of the offense coming from two or three guys as it does.
All in all, I think anyone with major complaints about Boucher, who has been successful at every level he's coached, needs to take a deep breath and a step back. He's not going anywhere and this season's failures certainly are not all on him. (Now then, if the Lightning should happen to have a terrible season next year, maybe we start singing a different tune... But I don’t think they will... And, hell, this season's only a little over half done, ain't it?)
Pete Choquette/ Bolts Prospects:
Presuming the defense and goaltending are mostly personnel issues....
Honestly, how is this power play at 3rd to last in the league at 13.3%? You can't say that's a lack of personnel. This PP group is essentially the same one that was lights out in the playoffs last year. That's where I believe the coaching has to improve.