Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois announced Monday that Joel Bouchard has been named the new head of the Syracuse Crunch, replacing Ben Groulx who had served in the position for seven years since the 2016-17 season.
Bouchard, a 364-game NHL veteran, as a player, has spent the past decade building his coaching experience. Four seasons leading the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the QMJHL (2015-18), 3 with the Laval Rocket (2019-21) and 1 with the San Diego Gulls (2022) in the AHL. His combined AHL coaching record stands at 111-100-31 over 242 games with his best result coming in the shortened 2021 season that saw the Rocket finish atop the Canadian Division standings with a 23-9-4 record.
In his first season with the Crunch, Bouchard should benefit from taking over a roster that went 35-26-11 the previous season and is expected to experience limited turnover heading into the fall. Notable departures include goalie Max Lagace, center Simon Ryfors, and potentially defenseman Trevor Carrick — who remains unsigned with free agency around the corner. Hugo Alnefelt returns in net, giving the team a known quantity. Forwards Cole Koepke and Gabe Fortier were pending RFAs but have already re-signed.
Ben Groulx’s Syracuse Crunch legacy
Spending seven seasons at the helm in Syracuse, Groulx’s leaves with a 256-152-62 record over 470 games. The Crunch finished atop the North Division standings twice (2017 and 2019) under him and made the AHL Playoffs every season they were held.
The team’s greatest playoff success came during his first season when the Crunch made it to the Calder Cup Final. The following year would see a second-round exit, but afterwards the team was unable to advance past the first-round.
Over his tenure, Groulx oversaw the development of several players who have made the jump to the NHL with the Lightning. Notables include Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, Carter Verhaeghe, Erik Cernak and Ross Colton.
Per the same release, it was mentioned that Groulx will be offered another position in the Lightning organization.
It has been no secret that Groulx has sought out NHL coaching positions in recent years. Most recently he was highlighted in the Arizona Coyotes’ head coach search over the 2021 offseason before they ultimately hired André Tourigny. Without there being any word of coaching changes for the NHL team, it is unclear what position Groulx is going to be offered, or if he will accept it.
Regardless of Groulx’s next move, it is undeniable that he had a positive impact for the Lightning organization in his time as the Syracuse Crunch head coach and that his work with the Lightning’s prospects played a direct role in the success the team has had in recent years.