For anyone who keeps even half an eye on non-NHL hockey, it’s been difficult to miss Guy Boucher’s climb up the coaching ranks. He’s had tremendous success over the last few years – in the QMJHL, with Canada’s U-18 and U-20 junior teams, and last year in the AHL, where he was named the AHL Coach of the Year after guiding the Hamilton Bulldogs to a great season.
Now, reports out of Columbus indicate that he’s been offered the Blue Jackets’ head coaching gig. It isn’t surprising, given that general manager Scott Howson refused to make a decision on his head coaching vacancy until he was able to talk to Boucher. Here’s what Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch had to say about the possibility:
Howson clearly sees Boucher and his three college degrees as an innovator. Credit the Jackets’ GM for thinking creatively and trying to get ahead of the curve. It would be a bold hire.
That’s the biggest part of Boucher’s allure, aside from his success. He’s an educated man in an environment where most of the learning is of the hands-on variety. Of his three degrees, the one that gets all the attention is his master’s in sports psychology, but he also has bachelor’s degrees in biosystems engineering and history. I can’t recall ever hearing of a coach with such a diverse educational background.
The Dispatch suggested Boucher was an innovator, citing his 1-3-1 pattern. His power play work in the QMJHL and with Canada’s world junior team shows that such innovation isn’t limited to even-strength. He has a very impressive track record in that department.
What I hadn’t realized about Boucher was how fiery he is; his resume suggests a methodical and carefully controlled head coach, but his history shows something different. For instance, from ESPN’s Scott Burnside:
After the Drummondville game, for instance, Voltigeurs coach Guy Boucher unleashed a profanity-laced tirade on his players that lasted at least 10 minutes and left local reporters shaking their heads in disgust.
Then there’s Boucher’s assistant coach in Hamilton, Martin Raymond, describing how Boucher had changed since making the jump to professional hockey:
"He’s mellowed a little bit," said Raymond. "I remember when he first started as a head coach, he would call me and we’d have good talks. My job would be to calm him down a little bit because he’s very intense."
Then there were Boucher’s comments on Guillaume Latendresse, which were outspoken given that his team owned Latendresse’s junior rights at a time when the Canadiens had elevated him to their NHL club:
"It’s a touchy situation. If I say Latendresse doesn’t belong up there, then whoops, we’re not backing the kid up. For us, he’s an ambassador. He’s always going to be a product of Drummondville. So, as an organization, we don’t want to say he doesn’t belong there.
"By Christmas, though, if his game depreciates, then I guess we’ll think like everybody else. But there’s a feeling out there he hasn’t won his way up. People feel it’s been given to him on a platter."
I hope Boucher gets the Columbus job. His work at the junior and AHL levels has been compelling, he’s a good quote, and his unique resume makes him intriguing as a coaching candidate. It will be interesting to see how he does when he gets his seemingly inevitable chance at an NHL job.