Habs Lose Boucher to Lightning; Might Lose Pearn and Muller Too

UPDATE: According to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, Habs assistant coach might be the next one to leave the organization, having been offered the job to coach the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings. Along with Boucher and potentially Kirk Muller, this could mean some big changes in management for Montreal this summer.

According to various sources, the Tampa Bay will announce shortly that their new head coach is none other than Guy Boucher, the man who coached the farm team for the Montreal Canadiens in Hamilton this season.

For many, Boucher was considered the best off-season acquisition for the Canadiens this past off-season. The 38 year old burst onto the scene as the coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs this season and coached them all the way to the AHL conference finals in this year's playoffs before being eliminated in game 7 against the Texas Stars.

To add to this incredibly impressive rookie AHL season, Boucher was awarded the coach of the year trophy in the AHL, and was credited for the development of several prospects for the Montreal Canadiens, notably PK Subban, who played 14 games for the Canadiens in these playoffs, accumulating 1 goal and 7 assists and essentially replacing Andrei Markov after his injury.

Needless to say, Boucher managed to turn the eyes of several NHL teams, having added to his already impressive Quebec Major Junior career from the prior decade.

Columbus was the first team to show interesting, going as far to offer Boucher a contract this past week and giving him the weekend to consider the offer. When it was reported that Boucher had turned the offer to coach the Blue Jackets down yesterday, most in the city of Montreal expected Boucher to remain as coach of the Bulldogs next season, or maybe even receive a promotion to assistant coach within Montreal. Cited as the reasons why Boucher turned the offer down were two requests that Columbus refused, in other words "bringing with him his coaching staff and having carte blanche on 'hockey' decisions".

Equally (or by the looks of it, moreso) interested were the Tampa Bay Lightning, as Boucher will take over for Rick Tocchet as head coach in the sunny state of Florida. It's doubtful that Boucher will have his ''carte blanche'' on hockey operations with Steve Yzerman as general manager, at least not fully, but Boucher did get his second wish, to bring his coaching staff with him to Tampa, as Martin Raymond and Daniel Lacroix will be accompanying him next season.

The move is a great one for the Tampa bay Lightning, who get a high-tempo offensive coach that will use offensive weapons as they need to be used. Boucher, now the youngest coach in the NHL at 38, will compliment the players and management in Tampa Bay very well and will represent an exciting new movement for the city and the team.

For Boucher himself, he gets to work with an exciting young general manager with credentials in Steve Yzerman, he gets to work with francophone players such as Vinnie Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, not to mention all the other good young players in the organization, and last but maybe not least, he gets to enjoy the weather and beaches of the sunshine state, something I'm sure he doesn't mind.

Is the move better for him than Columbus? From a hockey perspective, it's arguable. Columbus has a good young team and isn't handicapped by a contract like Lecavalier's, and the market for hockey might actually be a little better. From my perspective, Boucher would have more to work with in Ohio, including QMJHL graduate Derrek Brassard as well as superstar Rick Nash and prodigy Steve Mason.

The difference, from where I stand, is Steve Yzerman (and the sunny weather).

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE HABS

Of course the focus for now around the league and the web will be what this means for the Lightning. But I'll leave that perspective to my colleagues covering the Lightning.

From a Canadiens perspective, there are many questions to be raised over the coming days, weeks, months, even.

The first that comes to mind is whether Boucher made the right decision. Yes, he's been hot-shotted to a head coaching position, but would he have been better off staying in Montreal, potentially moving up to assistant-coach for the Habs next season and seeing where it goes? Rookie coaching positions are by no means stable these days and he clearly had a future with the organization.

On the other hand, the Canadiens definitely made the right decision in letting him go. If Boucher ever decided to come back to Montreal, remembering that Pierre Gauthier and the Molsons allowed him to achieve his dreams would work FOR the Canadiens. If they forced him to stay, they might have had a disgruntled coach on their hands.

Finally, and this is the biggest question right now, what does this mean for the coaching staff in Montreal?

Rumors were already circulating that the Habs had offered the head coaching job in Hamilton to Kirk Muller. Would that be considered a demotion for the Habs assistant coach and former player, or would it be a promotion? Would it be Jacques Martin's way of getting him off his bench, or simply a move towards the potential future of the coaching situation in Montreal?

Will Muller even stay in Montreal? Rumors were also circulating that Lou Lamoriello was considering Muller for the head coach job in New Jersey which was recently vacated by Jacques Lemaire. Michel Therrien and Guy Carbonneau, two more former Montreal head coaches (which is no surprise, considering Lou's obsession with the Habs), are also up for the job.

Either way, Muller's situation is definitely one that needs to be dealt with. When it's all said and done, I would consider it likely that he would remain with the organization in some capacity, but you never know.

In any case, with the draft and free agency approaching, Pierre Gauthier has a lot on his plate and plenty to deal with, from the coaching staff in Hamilton, to Kirk Muller, to new prospects to all the players he has to sign, and we will definitely be on top of all of it here on TCL.

On a side note I'd like to apologize for my lack of blogging activity since the Canadiens were eliminated. Needless to say after such an underwhelming 3rd round performance it's hard to really find a lot to say. There will be lots of analysis and news to discuss leading up to July 1st though, so expect many blogs from yours truly!

For now, follow me on twitter and enjoy all the other blogs on TCL!

Prax
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