The Boucher Debate And Accountability


Feb 25, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher (left rear) consults with assistant coach Dan Lacroix (right rear) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 8-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIREIt’s been the same story pretty much all season. Both B.C. and A.B. Lightning time. (Before Cooper and After Boucher). The Tampa Bay Lightning go through the motions of the first two periods of the game. Then,with only minutes left in the third, they wake up realize that they on are the ice and try to make a come back and skate like it’s the last game in the playoffs. Sometimes it pays off and they, like in last night’s game against in the Washington Capitals, tie the game up and go into overtime. Other times they end up losing by only a single goal. This was the story of Guy Boucher. Steve Yzerman cut the cord, brought in Jon Cooper, and has the team changed? Nope. They are still doing the same things. And it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating as a fan to watch. It’s frustrating to team management. It’s frustrating to Coach Cooper, and if he’s paying attention, even more frustrating for Guy Boucher. (Or he might be sitting back and laughing, watching karma unfold. That’s what I would do. He’s too classy for that, though.) It’s got to be frustrating for the players on the team who actually care and want to win.

I don’t get it. They know what they are doing wrong.  Stupid penalties prove to be extremely costly. Turnovers. Lack of puck possession. Lack of defense. Lack of offense. Leaving the goaltender out to dry. Lack of drive. “We could have packed it in”, said Teddy Purcell according to the Tampa Tribune this morning. Really? Could have? But didn’t. Ok then. Well, they could have skated better and played harder. They could have acted like the cared for more than the last three minutes of the game for the most part of the season. They could have kept their head in the game and listened to Guy Boucher.

Yes, I went there. I was listening to sports radio this morning, as I always do, and a caller said that he told his ticket rep that he wasn’t going to renew his season tickets because they fired Guy Boucher. The girl told him that the guys just quit listening to him in the locker room. Ok, this is wrong on so many levels. First of all, what right did she have to say that to him? ‘Well, the guys gave up, but renew your tickets anyway!’ …I think not. Not from that standpoint. We support the team and are in a position where we are fortunate enough to be able to renew, and are renewing.  However I understand this guy and his point of view. Second, so the ticket girls know everything that goes on in the locker room? Has it gotten that bad to where the dirty laundry is aired out to the whole organization? Or is it just gossip within the Lightning employees? If that truly is the case, and I have no doubt that it is, then it isn’t the kind of thing that you just talk about openly. And you certainly don’t tell that to customers and fans.

Not that it’s a secret or anything, but now it’s openly being said that the players just stopped listening to Guy Boucher. They gave up. They stopped caring. Who’s accountable? Certainly not the golden boys with the big contracts who should be leading the team by example and giving it their all, 100%, all of the time, no matter what. No. Instead, Guy Boucher lost his job. They just get off scott free with a ‘Ok boys, so you didn’t like your coach anymore. We’ll get you a new one and fix it.’ Guy Boucher never quit caring. The players did. The same very ones who go out there, game after game, (unless they are injured again), listening to the cheers of the fans and seeing their names on jerseys all throughout the arena. They know that they will be alright.

If I quit listening to my boss at work, and kept failing at my duties, do you think that my office manager would lose his job and I would be just fine? …No. I would lose my job. I’m not saying that all of the veterans and newbies should be traded, don’t get your pants in a bunch. I’m just saying that they should be held accountable somehow.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night via text, who quit texting me because we can not come to terms on this issue. She says that we ‘just need to get over it’ referring to the fact that Guy Boucher was let go the way that he was. I don’t think that he was perfect. Now that I’ve had time to calmly look back at things, there are many things that I actually disagree with him on. *gasp* Yes, I disagree with the all mighty Guy Boucher. (For new readers, I am the conductor of the Boucher Brigade train. I respect that man more than anyone alive today, and still do, and stood by him throughout everything.) However, I do see several things that frustrate me, and if I could, I’d do a Gibbs Slap on the back of his head and live, I would.

If you don’t watch NCIS, you should. It’s a GREAT show. Way more entertaining than the first two periods of a Lightning game this season, I can guarantee that!! The things that frustrated me about Boucher, yes… that’s where I was. He kept having the team play the same systems over and over, no matter the team, no matter the outcome. That can be one of two things. One being he’s stubborn. Stubborn and stuck to his systems, refusing to budge. Second being that he stuck to his guns not out of stubbornness, but because he knew that it would pay off eventually. And he didn’t get the chance to finish out his plan. With that said, I believe that he did have time to make it work. Sure, the ‘long term plan’ would be the 3 to 4 years. He was cut 2 1/2 years into that plan. But he had 2 1/2 years to mold that team. He lost a lot of his players. He had a lot of the Syracuse Crunch players brought up. They have to have time to adjust to his coaching. However, things should not have been that bad.

Great expectations were exceeded when in his first year of coaching the team they made it to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals. The next year, last year, the team failed to even make the playoffs. Though they had a great start this year, the Bolts fell and fell hard rapidly, in a downward spiral, destined to avoid the playoffs yet again. Boucher could have, should have, changed some things up. Another thing that frustrates me about him is that he’d play the same players, over and over… players that were proving to be duds on the ice, yet they still racked up plenty of ice time. The fresh players who may not have been the top scorers on the team but were anxious to get out there and eager to play, and they sat on the bench watching the “leaders” just go through the motions of the game. These youngins’ would have tried extra hard and would have brought the energy to excite the bench into actually doing something. Like playing to win. Boucher would use the same players, but change the lines like crazy. I guess he was trying for chemistry, to find that right combination. However the only thing that he found was misery. It frustrated the players to be changed so frequently, not knowing who’d they be hitting the ice with next. They have to be able  flow together, to know each other’s moves. He would even change the line combinations in the middle of a game!

But seriously, get over it? I don’t think I will get over how Boucher was treated. Ever. I understand why they made the coaching change. I honestly do. I don’t think that Guy Boucher walks on water and that it was everyone else’s fault, and none of his own… however I do think that they could have waited and given him one more year, and if the Lightning didn’t make it to the playoffs, tell him ‘well, ya had your four years like what was agreed upon when you were signed. You didn’t make it happen.’ Or, at the least, wait until the end of the season. I think that this was a classless move, a knee jerk reaction to try to quickly fix a problem.

How about hold the players accountable? Sure, we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Perhaps the guys have been put on notice. Maybe they got a good lecture. Whatever was done, if anything was done, was done in private. As it should be. However Boucher got a very public crucifixion. I don’t care how much I try, or how much time goes on, I won’t get over the fact that Guy Boucher was the team’s scape goat. Talking to him, seeing how truly hard it was on him and his family, that makes it hard to just get over. True, there is a business side of things. But like Guy says, I see them as people. Personally, I don’t see members of an organization as pawns for what might be the better of the organization.

I’ve talked many, many times about the class of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. It’s starting to falter, and I hope that they can fix it now. They are losing season ticket members. They are losing fans all together. They are losing the support of a lot of people.

With that said, I’ll bleed blue until the day I die. I’ve been a fan since the beginning, I stuck with the team through it’s growing pains. I supported them even when I couldn’t stand the owner(s), general managers(s), or coach(es). I like Jon Cooper. I think that he is the man for the job, and given time, he will prove to be just what the team needs. It’s not his fault that he was brought in the way he was.

I support the team, and I support Cooper. I support the players. They just need to get their head out of…. well, they just need to get their heads out of the clouds and play. There is still some time in this season left to try and gain the respect of the fans again. This is the perfect time for Cooper to try out different members of the Crunch, to see who is a good fit for the big boy team. He can’t be trying things out next season, the team needs to be set and win games next season. This is his trial time, he’s got some clay to play around with while it’s still wet before he molds it into the masterpiece work of art that he will. I have no doubt in my mind about that.

Get over it? I can understand not wanting to continue to hear me bring it up, and keep harping on the subject. It won’t change anything. I made the statement that Cooper isn’t the savior that Yzerman thought he would be, pulling the team out of the gutter and shining them up, taking them to the playoffs this season. I do feel, however, that he will be a great coach and a true asset to the team. That’s what brought up Boucher with my friend last night, my comment about Cooper. I don’t really dwell on the fact that Guy’s gone. What’s done is done. I can still stand by my opinions and feelings.

My question remains though, why does Franz Jean still have his job? I know that management knows better than me, an uneducated fan who doesn’t know anything about what goes on behind the scenes. But come on. Seven goal tenders have gone through his fingers, seven goaltenders have been unsuccessful. When the team didn’t play well, they fired the head coach. The goaltenders repeatedly bomb, despite their level of talent, and the goalie coach has no blood on his hands? I can understand why they didn’t wipe out the assistant coaches. Cooper will decide what he wants to do for a coaching staff in the offseason, and they couldn’t leave the team dry for now.

To the caller who said that he refused to renew his season tickets because Boucher was fired, I ask you this. Do you support the team at all? I fully understand your anger. Trust me. But if you are a true fan of the team, then you stand by them and support them, through the bumps in the road. It’s not always going to go the way that we want. We get attached to players, and they get traded. We get attached to coaches, and new coaches are brought in. But at the end of the day, I still bleed blue, and always will.

Dolly Dolce