Guy Boucher is an out-of-work coach right now, and the team that cut him adrift will attempt to begin salvaging their season tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who have dropped two straight and sit 14th in the Eastern Conference — and yet just five points out of a playoff spot — arrived in Winnipeg after Saturday’s loss to the Ottawa Senators and then Sunday announced Boucher had been fired as their head coach.
Assistants Dan Lacroix, Martin Raymond and Steve Thomas will work the bench against the Jets tonight (7 p.m.; TSNJets/TSN 1290) and GM Steve Yzerman won’t take long to hire a replacement.
"I’m hopeful that I can get something in place as quickly as possible," Yzerman said Sunday afternoon, addressing reporters at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg. "I’m not looking to drag things out. I have an idea for what I want to do and a plan for what I want to do and I’m trying to get that accomplished as soon as possible. I’m going to hire and name a head coach for the years to come."
Ravaged by injuries, the Lightning fell behind 4-0 to the Sens Saturday afternoon before rallying, but ultimately falling, 5-3. They are 13-17-1 and, after losing in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2010-11, have been struggling to find some of that same mojo that almost sent them to the Stanley Cup final.
"I’m not satisfied with the direction our hockey club is going," Yzerman said. "This isn’t a reaction, a desperate act, to try and make the playoffs although that is still our hope — regardless of where we sit in the standings. It is done not only with the short term but, more importantly, the long term of our organization (in mind) of where we’re going and where we want to get to.
"I’ve noticed a difference in our play and a difference in the attitude as an observation of our players and felt that the situation is worsening and quickly worsening and something needed to be done immediately."
Long-time Buffalo Sabres boss Lindy Ruff and Jon Cooper, who coaches the Lightning’s AHL affiliate the Syracuse Crunch, appear to be the leading candidates.
"Obviously you don’t want to see anything like that happen, you don’t want to see anyone lose their job especially someone that has been part of this organization for a long time and who has worked extremely hard," said Lightning star Steven Stamkos. "He’s probably the hardest-working coach I’ve ever had with regards to how much he puts into preparation trying to help the guys get ready for games.
"A couple of years ago we had that great run and there was the expectation we were set after that. We probably wouldn’t have expected to go that far before the season so when you go on a run like that the next year the bar has been set and obviously our team, not just our coaching staff, didn’t live up to those.
"It’s another year of struggling right now and something had to be done. That’s just the nature of the game, the business side of it. It’s tough. I wish Guy the best of luck. I have a lot of respect for him."