After Jeff Halpern was promoted by the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Syracuse Crunch last week, it wasn’t immediately clear as to whether the Crunch was going to get a replacement. Halpern, who started off as a developmental coach for the Crunch before moving up to a full assistant coach, was one of four coaches with the team. It could have been assumed that either goalie and video coach Karl Goehring or assistant coach Ken Klee - or some combination of the two - would have just picked up the slack.
However, it couldn’t be denied that the four coach system was working in Syracuse. In whatever way the team was splitting up their duties, the results were in the pudding, as they say. The Crunch made the Calder Cup playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18, making the final round in 2017. The rosters that the team made those runs with were fairly unconventional for playoff teams. Both were young teams with just a handful of veterans - many of whom came and went depending on callups - who relied on speed and fast-tracked development to earn their success.
The Lightning have obviously liked what they have witnessed a four-coach system do with their AHL club, as it was announced Tuesday that Gilles Bouchard has been hired to replace Halpern. Bouchard, 47, was the general manager and head coach of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He has also been an assistant coach twice and head coach once for Canadian Teams at the U17 level. He was supposed to be the head coach for Canada in the Hlinka Memorial Cup this year.
Bouchard has quite the pedigree for winning. He won the QMJHL’s Maurice Filion Trophy for General Manager of the Year and the Ron-Lapointe Trophy for Coach of the Year for the 2015-16 season. During that season, the Huskies claimed the QMJHL championship for the first time in franchise history, enabling them to reach the Memorial Cup. He also has quite a long coaching resume. He started coaching AAA midget in 1998, and did that up through 2011-12. He then did a year of coaching with Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières, his alma mater, before moving on to the Huskies organization.
During his years as a forward, Bouchard spent three seasons in the QMJHL from 1988 to 1991 with Shawinigan, Trois-Rivières, Beauport and Chicoutimi. He then played for his university before moving onto the QSPHL with Louiseville, Asbestos and Thetford Mines. During the 1990-1991 season, he played in the Memorial Cup.
Much like Crunch head coach Ben Groulx, whose son Bo was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, Bouchard’s son was also drafted in the 2018 NHL Draft. Xavier Bouchard, a defenseman, was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in the sixth round of the draft.
In the official release from the Crunch, general manager Julian BriseBois said he was “very pleased and excited” with the addition of Bouchard:
Gilles has a strong coaching background and as I have gotten to know him, I have gotten to appreciate that he has a great mind for hockey. He is a bright addition to our coaching staff and our players in Syracuse will greatly benefit from getting to work with him. With Ben Groulx, Ken Klee, Karl Goehring and Gilles on staff, we have a group of Crunch coaches that we can be very proud of.