With the Tampa Bay Lightning sitting 14th in the Eastern Conference and having just won 4 times in their past 14 games, GM Steve Yzerman announced on Sunday morning that head coach Guy Boucher had been fired.
From the Lightning:
"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," said Yzerman upon making the announcement. "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."
Having lost the first two of a Canadian trip earlier this week, Boucher said he needed to "create urgency" heading into this weekend's games against the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets. The Lightning responded Saturday afternoon by allowing four first period goals in a 5-3 loss to the Senators. Yzerman had seen enough.
Things had not been heading in the right direction for the Lightning all season. Goaltender Anders Lindback, who Yzerman acquired from Nashville over the summer, hasn't played up to par. Injuries have plagued the lineup, as well, but unlike the Senators, the team and Boucher weren't able to find success in spite of them. Just look at their roster against the Senators and you'll find it was littered with rookies and players who have spent time in the AHL this season.
The team announced that Boucher's assistants, Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix, will handle the coaching duties for Sunday's game in Winnipeg.
Beyond Sunday, who might Yzerman turn to for relief? Now that he's a free agent, Lindy Ruff will be linked to any open job, and he does have a tie to Yzerman through their Team Canada connection. If Yzerman decides to go the AHL route again, he can turn to Jon Cooper, who currently runs the Syracuse Crunch bench, Tampa's minor league affiliate. Given the number of Lightning players who have played for Cooper, it wouldn't be a surprise if Yzerman turns to him, at least for the short-term.
In his first year as head coach in 2010-11, Boucher helped Tampa make a 23-point improvement in the standings and led them to within a victory of playing for the Stanley Cup, before falling to the eventual champion Boston Bruins. The Lightning then finished last season with 19 less points and missed the playoffs.
With 17 games left in their season and only five points out of the eighth spot in the East, there is time for Yzerman to repair this, but will the results show a quick fix like with Boucher or have a lasting effect?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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