Steve Yzerman knew it, the players new it, the fans new it…everybody new it. After giving up four first period goals against Ottawa in a must win game on Saturday night, Guy Boucher’s tenure as Lightning coach was over.
The loss to the Senators was the second straight lethargic game, mailed in by the players. Perhaps Boucher would still be behind the Bolts bench if these two games were an aberration, but, instead they were the trend. For TampaBay it was the same frustrating storyline; No goaltending, no defense and no finished comeback. (Photo/Susan Ferlita)
Certainly, no one was picking the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup during this abbreviated season, but they were definitely thought of as contenders in the Southeast Division. Contenders don’t lose nine of twelve one goal games. Contenders don’t lose ten of their last 15 games. And contenders don’t speak of moral victories or almost comebacks.
Of course, Boucher deserves much of the blame. He proved that he couldn’t convince his players to sellout on defense. But, while GM Steve Yzerman is a Hall of Fame player, he is far, far from a Hall of Fame general manager.
In what was billed as Yzerman’s most important signing of his short GM career, he brought in goalie Anders Lindback and handed him the number one job, promoting flash backs of the Mike Smith deal..The results? A goalie that can’t play three in a row because he gets tired, who ranks 38th and 34th in the league in GAA and save percentage respectively.
By firing Boucher, Yzerman has now admitted another wrong choice, hiring the wrong coach.
One glorious failure after another and still Yzerman remains the Golden Child to most.
What happened to the highly publicized “methodical” plan of the Bolts GM? It was tossed out the window when TampaBay showed that they could compete for the Cup in 2010. From the minute the Lightning were bounced from the playoffs by the Bruins, an excited Yzerman made the decision to go for it now.
Don’t believe the hype. Yzerman has not assembled a team of great talent that is simply underperforming. The Bolts are not a talented group as teams go in the NHL.
So now, Yzerman has chosen the obvious scapegoat in Boucher. Now he must make another franchise changing decision. To hire a veteran coach is the safe and best way to avoid being blamed. To hire a young and upcoming coach will subject him to the never ending barrage of “not again” verbal jabs.
The choice Yzerman makes now will decide his own future in TampaBay. Unfortunately his track record points in the direction of choosing the wrong man.
It could be a long season again next year.
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About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?