In the first public appearance since his dismissal 10 days ago, former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher lavished praise on the organization and denied any friction with general manager Steve Yzerman on the direction of the struggling franchise.
“I wanted to let my emotions settle down and I didn’t want to be a distraction,’’ Boucher said Wednesday at Tampa Bay’s alternate practice rink in explaining his silence since he was sent home from Winnipeg on March 24 after a 5-3 setback at Ottawa. “My story is very simple – I’m very grateful to have had an opportunity to coach in the NHL and in such a great organization. It’s truly been an incredible ride, one we’re going to cherish for the rest of our lives.’’
Since Boucher was replaced behind the bench by minor-league coach Jon Cooper, he has watched an array of NHL games on television. Boucher has chosen not to watch the Lightning’s recent games, including a 3-2 shootout loss at home to the Panthers Tuesday night.
For Boucher, the emotions are still too raw.
“It was a shock,’’ he said of the short conversation with Yzerman, informing Boucher he had coached his final game with the Lightning. “But that’s the business and you have to deal with it. The last three Stanley Cup champion coaches have all gone through it. It’s something you have to deal with and it puts a lot of things in perspective. This is difficult. It’s a tough one, but adversity makes you grow.’’
Boucher said he didn’t notice any change in his relationship with Yzerman in the weeks leading up to his dismissal as Tampa Bay struggled to contend for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
“Steve and I had had a brief conversation that day and he said he wanted to make a change,’’ Boucher said. “We didn’t have any problems. We stuck together as a team and as a staff and made a lot happen. You can’t control injuries and you can’t control personnel that’s available and not available.’’
Boucher guided the Lightning to within one win of the Stanley Cup finals in his first season as an NHL coach, but the last two years were disappointing as Tampa Bay was undermined by mediocre goaltending and some key injuries.
On the same day Boucher spoke his mind, the Lightning traded for Ottawa backup goaltender Ben Bishop to compete against 24-year-old Anders Lindback for the No. 1 job.
“Whether it’s a forward, a defenseman or a goalie, there’s a growth process,’’ Boucher said. “Anders Lindback is a terrific individual. He’s a young guy that’s growing and he’s going to become a good goaltender in this league. But expectations have to go with the moment and the circumstances that you’re in.’’