Guy Boucher (IFK Helsinki/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)
The Ottawa Senators have hired Guy Boucher to take over behind the bench next season. Boucher’s hiring comes one day after the Senators lost out on hiring Bruce Boudreau, but Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk said there was an “overwhelming consensus that Guy was our top candidate.”
The Senators were one of the frontrunners to land coach Bruce Boudreau, but after the former Anaheim Ducks bench boss signed a deal with the Minnesota Wild on Saturday evening, Ottawa had to change courses. And with Boudreau out of the picture, it didn’t take Senators GM Pierre Dorion long to come to a decision on who would be taking over behind the bench.
Ottawa announced Sunday afternoon that Guy Boucher has signed a three-year deal to become the 12th coach in franchise history. Boucher, 44, last coached in the NHL during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign when he was coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. During his three years with the Lightning, Boucher amassed 97-79-20 record and took Tampa Bay to the Eastern Conference final in 2010-11. Boucher’s resume also includes a QMJHL championship, AHL coach of the year award and a Spengler Cup gold medal.
“Over the past three weeks, Pierre Dorion and our hockey operations staff have undertaken a thorough and comprehensive search for our next head coach,” Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said in a release. “Following a detailed evaluation of all coaching candidates, there was overwhelming consensus that Guy was our top candidate. We wanted a great coach and this process yielded our top pick. I couldn’t be happier.”
Whether there’s any truth to Boucher being the Senators’ first choice or not, it’s quite evident that he was at least among the top two choices for Ottawa’s next bench boss. Melnyk had said earlier in the week that he wanted Dorion to have the field narrowed to two choices by the weekend, and, with Boudreau signing in Minnesota, it’s Boucher who has landed the Senators gig.
It will be up to Boucher to help turnaround a Senators franchise that has missed the post-season in two of the past three seasons and has only won one playoff round in the past nine seasons. He’ll have the opportunity to work with a number of young talents including all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson. The roster has some of the pieces that could make Ottawa competitive as soon as next season — forwards Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan all have the ability to be impact players — but the team is going to need to show significant improvement after missing the playoffs by 11 points in 2015-16.
Boucher very nearly made his return to the NHL last off-season when he interviewed and was considered a top candidate for the vacant coaching position with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs landed top free agent coaching candidate Mike Babcock, though, and Boucher returned to the Swiss NLA’s SC Bern to begin the 2015-16 season.
Prior to his hiring, Boucher had spent the past three seasons coaching Bern, but was let go from the club mid-season following a slow start to the campaign. Regardless of whether he was fired or not, though, Boucher had made it clear that he would not be returning to Bern following the 2015-16 campaign. “It has been a process within my family over a couple of months,” Boucher said in a release following his November firing, via SwissHockeyNews.ch. “The decision has nothing to do with (SC Bern), where I feel very comfortable, nor with other professional perspectives.”