Only hours after it appeared that maybe Guy Boucher would indeed remain in the Canadiens family he so glowingly spoke about last Thursday, it appears the talented young coach is going to be joining Steve Yzerman, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier in Tampa Bay.
Ruefrontenac.com's Martin Leclerc reported late Monday night that Boucher is indeed taking Yzerman's offer to become his first coaching hire. And it's a mighty good one, I might add.
I personally felt like the fit may be better in Columbus, but obviously Boucher disagreed. He's got two young, rising stars to build around in Stamkos and Victor Hedman and highly skilled veterans to help him sell his message, assuming they buy into it. Of course, no one I've ever spoken to who has played for Boucher has ever said a single bad thing about him, so I don't see why guys like St. Louis and Lecavalier would not jump on board.
Frankly, it doesn't particularly matter why Boucher decided to choose Tampa Bay over Columbus, not when it comes to the Canadiens. All that matters is that the hottest coaching talent in hockey just left the organization.
But really, what were the Canadiens supposed to do? The only way Boucher would be coaching in Montreal right now would be if Bob Gainey had hired him right out of junior last summer, and bringing in a rookie coach was exactly what he didn't want to do after firing Guy Carbonneau. Experience was the number one criteria for that coaching hire (aside from that pesky language thing, of course) so Gainey was not about to hand the job to yet another rookie, even though it seemed pretty obvious back then that Boucher was destined for the NHL. Still, Gainey might very well have been roasted for hiring another coach with no experience to come and learn (read: fail) in Montreal so he could succeed elsewhere.
So Gainey went with Jacques Martin, and to lure him out of Florida he threw big money and a cushy four-year contract at him as well (which, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, is what Yzerman is throwing at Boucher). That contract, and the fact Martin just led an injury-riddled team into the playoffs for a near-magical ride to the conference final made it so there was really no way to justify a coaching change in Montreal at this time.
And unfortunately for the Canadiens, the time to make Boucher coach was now.
I've heard a lot of people say that Boucher will be able to come back after gaining experience elsewhere, so that for once the Canadiens are not the league's coaching farm system. But I don't think Boucher will be the coach in Montreal any time soon because he's going to build something pretty great with Yzerman in Tampa Bay. It's just a feeling I have, just like I did about Claude Julien, but it's one I didn't have about Michel Therrien or Alain Vigneault. As it turns out, all three of them went on to become more than competent NHL coaches after learning the job in Montreal.
I think it could be quite a while before we see Boucher out of a job and available at a time when the Canadiens need a head coach. But I can assure you of one thing: should the Habs get off to a slow start and the Lightning rockets out of the gates, the heat will be on Pierre Gauthier and Martin like never before.
That's just the nature of the beast in this city.