Boucher Shakes Up Bolts, Roenick Blasts Thrashers, Ovie Returns

Two Eastern Conference teams who struggled last year — Tampa Bay and Atlanta — made the most dramatic moves in the offseason and are looking to return to the playoffs and NHL relevance now.

After bringing in Steve Yzerman as GM, the Lightning struck the Canadiens organization by hiring Guy Boucher as head coach. Boucher’s resume in Hamilton with the Habs farm club included a North Division title and a deep run in the Calder Cup playoffs last season, plus kudos from his players and observers for his cerebral coaching techniques. At season’s end, he was won the Lou Pieri Award for AHL Coach of the Year.

He previously had been an assistant coach for three gold medal Canadians World Junior Championship teams and won the QMJHL regular season once and the Presidents Cup playoff championship twice. This guy can flat out coach and he’s already making an impression in the NHL.

In today’s Tampa Tribune, Ira Kaufman writes a short profile of Boucher, the hook being that the coach likes to keep his players off balance and always thinking, a common trait of many successful coaches.

“I hate that word (comfortable),” said Boucher. “You get in your comfort zone and
you get in your lazy zone.”

So he’s constantly moving players around during the preseason — Vinny Lecavalier to wing, Simon Gagne to centre — in an effort to keep their minds working and better grasp all the parts of his system.

“He’s smart, he brings lots of energy and he’s always pushing guys,” defenseman Pavel Kubina told Kaufman. “The defense has to know what the
forwards do. I might play right defense, but I have to know about all
five guys on our forechecks and breakouts.”

Kaufman wondered how Boucher would deal with Steven Stamkos, who certainly thrived in his comfort zone — the left faceoff circle from where he fired one-timers on the power play. Stamkos led the NHL with 24 PP goals last year.

“I’m not tied to it (set power-play lineup), but I’m not blind to that
part (Stamkos), either,” Boucher laughed. “We’ve got a lot of
guys who are good at different positions. I want to make sure every guy
gets a piece of the cake.”

“For all of us, it’s going to be an adjustment,” Stamkos told Kaufman. “He’s a
smart guy with a major in sports psychology, so he knows what he’s
talking about. Sometimes you sit back and wonder, why hasn’t anyone else
done this stuff? It works. Coach is all about using our speed, and we
have a lot of it. We’re going to be in other teams’ faces, taking away
time and space.

“Put our speed and skill together with the new systems we have and
it’s going to be an exciting brand of hockey – something our fans want
and deserve.”

Down in Atlanta, the Thrashers also have a new bench boss in long time NHL coach Craig Ramsay, and new GM Rick Dudley swung some big trades, including a couple that scooped up a chunk of the salary cap-burdened Cup champion Blackhawks — Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eagar, Brent Soppel and Andrew Ladd.

Byfuglien is the biggest name (and the biggest guy) in the group and he generated big headlines this summer when the Thrashers announced they’d play Big Buff on defence, where he sometimes played in Chicago, rather than up front where he made a big impact in the playoffs with 11 goals in 22 games.

Well, that news has rubbed ex-NHLer Jeremy Roenick the wrong way. J.R. (or “P.R.” as his detractors derisively call him) who cried on US national TV after his former team won the Cup in June, felt he had to say so on his radio show.

(You may ask, Jeremy Roenick has a radio show? And aparently he does on Sirius XM. You may also ask, Jeremey Roenick – who cares? It’s a valid question.)

On his show, Roenick unleashed this broadside, as reported yesterday by Chris Vivlamore blogging for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

“That might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.  Dustin
Byfuglien as a defenseman.  I would love to play against Dustin
Byfuglien as a defenseman.  I would turn him inside out, left, right and
center every single time.  This kid, he made his living in front of the
net scoring goals during the playoffs for the Chicago Blackhawks.  Why
on earth would you put him back as a defenseman?  This kid is strong,
he’s powerful, he’s a great skater.  Put him in front of the net as a
forward.  That’s where you want him to do all his damage.  Playing him
as a defenseman?  Maybe that’s why the Thrashers are 0-3 in preseason.  
Maybe that’s why nobody comes to watch their games.  It’s crazy.  What
are they thinking?  They already have a GM that doesn’t know the game
whatsoever.  But, hey, that’s just my opinion.  Like me or hate me if
you don’t [agree].  I’m not a big fan of Atlanta for a lot of reasons
but the fact that they’re going to play Dustin Byfuglien [as a
defenseman], my goodness gracious.”

To which Vivlamore responded: “So, Rick Dudley ‘doesn’t know the game whatsoever’? Who knew?”

Good ol’ J.R. Age and retirement have not mellowed him at all.

Well, moving Byfuglien back to D does create a pretty good top six for the Thrashers — Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya, Sopel
and Byfuglien — at a time when most of the wise hockey observers say that a strong blueline corps is the key to winning in the NHL today. And who’s to say Ramsay won’t deploy Buff in front of the net on the power play (although he does have a good hard shot from the blue line?).

The Hawks didn’t hesitate to use Byfuglien on defence when they ran into injury problems there last year and he did a good job. The fact is, he can play up or back and at his best, he’s pretty effective in either spot. Atlanta likes him on D, he likes to play D so why not see how it works?

Right now, Byfuglien has a bum ankle so he didn’t practice yesterday and won’t be in the lineup tonight when the Thrashers host the Predators in a preseason game.

And finally, in what has turned into an abreviated tour of the Southeast Division, Alex Ovechkin made his September debut last night in DC, as the Caps won their third preseason game, 3-2 over the Bruins. Ovechkin got a pair of assists and was named first star. “Just give them puck and they score goals. So it was easy,” Ovechkin
remarked (quoted by Chris Gordon on his blog Caps Snaps). Easy for him.

It was a physical game with Ovie throwing his body around pretty well. With about three minutes left, he was boarded by the B’s Gregory Campbell and Ovie retaliated with a slash. The pair each got minors.

“It’s, you know, physical game. It is always nice to just get into it
right away,” Ovechkin said. “In the scrimmage like we don’t hit a lot.
Just try to play more casual and right now it is just time to get into
it.”

True that.

31 Comments

  1. notbigbird says:

    No. Kirk did.

  2. Bill says:

    Jacques Martin coached a Canadiens team that was consistently outshot and outplayed. He coached a team that scraped into the playoffs and got into the third round on the back of an incredibly hot goalie.

    Some people think Price played badly last year. I do not. I think he played average or slightly better – as his save percentage indicates – and his brutal win/loss record is really indicative of how well the team played in front of him. Which was often quite badly. Whether Halak is a fluke or the real thing, he absolutely made Jacques Martin look pretty good.

    Full Breezer 4 Life

  3. Harditya_CareyPrice says:

    I want to believe this is Kirk Muller’s team not Jacques’.

  4. Mr Dobby says:

    I was about to write that.

  5. notbigbird says:

    Not me. I’m with you on this one.

  6. RS says:

    Are you suggesting that the two teams are equal in talent, but that the only difference will be in the coaching?

  7. SmartDog says:

    When Boucher left and some people here were saying “who cares?” I offered anyone even money that the Bolts will finish higher than the Habs in the standings with Boucher behind the bench.

    The offer still holds.  Any takers?

    Boucher lives what coaching should be about: the psychology of performance.  Martin may be a pretty good coach, but Boucher will be better and more successful.

    ———
    Listen to the SmartDog. He knows his poop!

  8. TorontoHabsFan says:

    I’ll bite.

    $20.

  9. SeriousFan09 says:

    You still have to work with what you have and Price gives us superior goaltending and our defence/Bottom 6? Far deeper. They might have a bigger Top 6 punch if everything works out, but I’m not sold on Lecavalier regaining form and Gagne staying healthy.

     

    - I shall always remember Captain Koivu.
    http://habsandhockey.blogspot.com/

  10. avatar_58 says:

    Boucher also didn’t lose the AHL playoffs, Sanford did. Argue as you wish, but those 2 soft goals cost them 2 games – that they HAD in the bag….

  11. _Habsoloutly_ says:

    Coaching kids and coaching millionaire’s with ego’s is two completely different things altogether.  Do you know what millionaire athletes do when they don’t like a coach?  They stop playing good, they go thru the motions and start losing games till the GM has no choice but to fire the coach.  Kids don’t do that stuff, they play their hardest and give there all because they hope to make the big team someday.   Let us know when Boucher does something of note in the NHL, till then he’s just another rookie bench boss.

  12. sholi2000.com says:

    Sorry Dog, I got my money tied up in Halak vs Price wins bets.  I still think that TB has little scoring, less goaltending, and no defense.

    I love Stamkos, but Marty ain’t getting any younger, and Vinny is a crap shoot (injuries).

    Then again, I hate all those teams down there.  It just seems no one takes them serious when they arrive to play them.  Mtl especially.

     

    They Call Me Shane

  13. Exit716 says:

    I think Boucher should have been retained in some capacity at equal or greater dollars than what that welfare franchise in Florida was offering.

    Good organizations don’t let top talent walk for nothing.

  14. Duracell3 says:

    Have you seen the St. Louis blues roster lol? anyone who takes Halak there has some lofty expectations.

  15. Mike T says:

    MAD HATTERS!!!!!!!! AMAZING!

  16. TorontoHabsFan says:

    Somebody should probably tell Roenick that Defence is Byfuglien’s natural position.

  17. keepthefaith says:

    I never heard of Boucher until last year.  However my gut instinct tells me that he was our greatest loss in the offseason.  BY FAR!!  Being stuck with JM instead of this guy makes me feel uneasy.

  18. Say Ash says:

    Did Boucher coach this team to its best finish in 17 years?

  19. SeriousFan09 says:

    I like Boucher, but let’s see how his record stands in TB for a couple years before we call him the Francophone Mike Babcock.

    Besides, he might want to come home and coach Les Habitants in a few years but since he knows JM has the job, he decided he might as well get a top coaching job in the NHL elsewhere. He’ll remember MTL didn’t stand in his way when the offers came out and got him on the map by giving him the Bulldogs to make his name in professional coaching.

     

    - I shall always remember Captain Koivu.
    http://habsandhockey.blogspot.com/

  20. J.J. of Turku says:

    Propably old news for you guys in the North America… Just read from Finnish news website that Ovie wants to make music with Eminem.

    Anyone else counting hours? I Just ordered ‘ESPN Center Ice’ for next season, a lots of sleepless nights  coming! :)

    They really should broadcast all the preseason games too…

     

    http://media.turku.fi/kamera1.html

  21. Mattyleg says:

    Wow. #8 Mile.

    Now I see.

    —Hope Springs Eternal—

  22. adam76 says:

    Who starts Thursday against Buffalo?

  23. observer says:

    When does the second EXHIBTION season start?

  24. Mattyleg says:

    Oh my aching sides.

    —Hope Springs Eternal—

  25. Propwash says:

    Next September.

     

    Goalies in Montreal have two roles, netminder and scapegoat. 

  26. SmartDog says:

    Your on.   Point tie broken by head-to-head record.

    ———
    Listen to the SmartDog. He knows his poop!

  27. TorontoHabsFan says:

    Smart Dogs should probably be better grammarians :)

    Also, if I lose I have to create a signature that says “I’m dumber than a dog”. If you lose, you have to change yours to “Guess I’m not that smart after all!”

  28. SmartDog says:

    What I’m sold on is Boucher getting the most out of his players individually and his team as a team.  And that’s how you win.

     

    ———
    Listen to the SmartDog. He knows his poop!

  29. SeriousFan09 says:

    He still couldn’t make Desjardins and Sanford goalies that could make the saves in the AHL playoffs when it counted and he can’t wave a wand at Ellis or make Smith a healthier goalie, nor can Stevie Y shake Vinny’s hand and fix his shoulder and wrist just by touching him.

    You can maximize player efforts, but stone hands are stone hands and Tampa has weak defence after Defencemen No. 3 (Or 2, if you think Kubina is suspect or Hedman will sophomore slump) and a Bottom 6 that is simply not a match for Montreal’s. Depth does a lot in the NHL these days, MTL’s inability to field Bottom 6 for most of the year cost them games and points.

     

    - I shall always remember Captain Koivu.
    http://habsandhockey.blogspot.com/

  30. SeriousFan09 says:

    He also made roster mistakes, Carle and Pacioretty were cold from injury rehab and shouldn’t have played the game. He should have dressed the roster he got through that round with the Texas Stars, neither of them contributed anything substantive to the game.

     

    - I shall always remember Captain Koivu.
    http://habsandhockey.blogspot.com/

  31. CanadienBoy says:

    Agree with that + Martin has change is stile a bit, could be because of Capt. Kirk who is becoming a good coach and motivator


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