With the announcement Monday afternoon that Guy Boucher had turned down the
Columbus coaching offer (after numerous reports to the contrary), there was
jubilation amongst Habs fans – the "next one" is staying put! However, late
that evening, that quickly turned to disappointment as it was announced that
Boucher had agreed to a 4 year deal with Tampa Bay. I understand the
disappointment, but I must say I’m quite perplexed by the hostile reaction I’m
seeing from some fans.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Boucher – what he did with an injury
(and callup) depleted roster in Hamilton this year was sensational, he very much
deserved the coach of the year award. However, the day he received that
award should have been the day people realized he wasn’t going to be debuting
with the Habs as a head coach in the NHL. With the coaching trend now
shifting towards younger coaches, those who win the Louis A.R. Pieri Award
(coach of the year) jump to the NHL in a hurry and not with the team they were
previously employed by.
As recent evidence, look no further than last year’s winner, Scott Arniel,
the new head coach of the Blue Jackets after Boucher spurned their offer.
He leaves Vancouver to take that job. The year before that? Scott
Gordon of the Providence Bruins, now the head coach of the New York Islanders.
Going back a few more years, ex-Jacket coach Claude Noel left Nashville’s organization for that
job. This is a reality of the situation, good young coaches leave for
brighter pastures and you don’t see those teams bending over backwards (firing
their current coaches) to make room for them. Are those departures all
"failures of management" too? Hardly.
Now before anyone suggests that Boucher is a "different coach," no need, I
agree. His system is unique to the pro game, but there’s some inherent
negatives associated with that. Is it right to build a team around a
system? Further still, is it right to build a team around a system of a
rookie coach? Not really.
The financial ramifications of such a move need to be considered as well –
cost of firing Jacques Martin: roughly $6 million. Cost of giving Boucher
a new NHL deal: Somewhere around $750,000. Plus, knowing now that taking
his staff from Hamilton was a requirement for him accepting a deal, those
assistants (Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond) need new deals (more money),
while Kirk Muller and Perry Pearn would have to be fired (costing yet even more
money). This puts the overall price tag on making such a move at around $8
million. Coming from a team who replaced half a dozen scouts essentially
with flatscreen (hopefully HD) TV’s largely for cost savings (really, what else
could it be, spin job aside?) plus the looming buyout of Georges Laraque (and
possibly Roman Hamrlik), I can appreciate why such a move wouldn’t be made.
Theoretically, Boucher could have joined the staff as an assistant (replacing
the soon to be departed Perry Pearn if those reports are true), but is that an
ideal situation? This isn’t a reprieve of Carbonneau-Gainey where the
succession plan was in place, quite the opposite really. The first time
the Habs go on a 3-game losing streak, people would be calling for the change,
it’d be a circus all season long. Plus, assistant coaches haven’t had a
lot of success taking over the team they were already working for – Dave Lewis
and Jim Playfair are recent examples of that.
Now, I would have liked to see Boucher stay on as much as most people here,
but think about this – Boucher has a 4 year deal in Tampa, not a 24 year
contract. Coaches come and coaches go, and Boucher will be no different.
There will come a time where he’s let go, why can’t the Habs bring him in then,
when he’s had a chance to "work out the kinks" at the NHL level? The Habs
have suffered through the trials and tribulations of rookie coaches for a long
time now, let someone else develop the coach for once.
Boucher’s clearly earned the opportunity he is about to receive and rather
than bemoan it, be happy for him. I know I sure am. If him being
behind the Montreal bench was meant to be, it’ll happen one day. Good
things come to those who wait…