WINNIPEG – The Lightning have fired head coach Guy Boucher less than three years into his tenure behind the bench. Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman made the announcement early Sunday morning. Assistant coaches Dan LaCroix and Martin Raymond will run the bench for the Lightning’s game Sunday night in Winnipeg. The top early candidates to replace Boucher include long time Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, who was fired by the Sabres earlier this season, and Jon Cooper, who led Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate to a Calder cup Championship last season. With 17 games remaining in this season the Lightning sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference with a 13-17-1 record, five points out of a playoff position. But since starting the season 6-1, Tampa Bay has stumbled to a 7-16-1 record that started many to wonder if a change was needed to help turn the team’s fortunes around. That change came on Sunday.
“Guy has poured his heart and soul into the Lightning organization for these past three years and we appreciate all the work he has done," Yzerman said in a statement. "But ultimately I am not satisfied with the direction we are heading and I believe making a change today is in the best interest of our franchise.” Boucher leaves the Lightning as the all-time winningest coach by winning percentage with a 84-62-19 record. In his first season as head coach, Boucher led the Lightning to a fifth place finish in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay then went on to knock off Pittsburgh and Washington in the first two rounds of the playoffs before falling to Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final.