With only ten games left in their season, the Ottawa Senators are coming down to the last wire. After a disappointing season, staff and players know that changes are coming their way. One topic that has flown under the radar is if the coaching staff remains intact. Does head coach Guy Boucher’s future looks wary with the Ottawa Senators, or will he remain as bench boss next year?
Where Guy Boucher’s Future Lies in Ottawa
When Pierre Dorion brought in Guy Boucher in May 2016, it was all about structuring a well-coached franchise when the team hit the ice. It was the team’s fifth head coach since 2008. Changes were happening way too frequently behind the bench. Pierre Dorion thought he found the answer once in for all. After having a terrible 2015-16 season with former head coach Dave Cameron, it looked like things were bound to look up.
In his inaugural season behind the Sens bench, it was peaches and cream for Guy Boucher and his players. Boucher has always been a defense-first coach. This is one of the primary reasons he was brought on by Sens management. The Senators needed help on the defensive end. Boucher was looked at as a solution for that area of their game. After leading his team to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s been a 180-degree turnaround this season. With just a handful of games remaining Boucher, management and the players are gearing up for a long offseason. It has been a disappointing year, to say the least for the Ottawa Senators. With just five home games remaining, the Sens sit fourth from the bottom of the NHL.
Although Pierre Dorion has stated he has no interest in staff changes, Guy Boucher’s future is in jeopardy. When a team goes from a top three spot in their division to bottom of the league you can expect changes to come. Whether he’s let go or gets a second chance is still up in the air. There are moving parts when it comes to this topic. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Guy Boucher remaining, or leaving as Sens head coach.
Guy Boucher’s Future: The Pros On Remaining Head Coach
It’s not up for debate to say Guy Boucher helped the Senators turn their defensive woes around last season. The Senators finished with solid defensive numbers after the 2016-17 campaign. It also contributed to their long and successful playoff run. Something the Senators haven’t seen in some time. Here are the Senators numbers from last season compared to 2015-16 under Cameron.
Under Guy Boucher 2016-17
Goals against per game: 2.56 (10th)
Goals for per game: 2.51 (22nd)
Shots against per game: 30.1 (15th)
Shots per game: 30 (17th)
Penalty kill: 79.7% (22nd)
Under Dave Cameron 2015-16
Goals against per game: 2.94 (5th worst)
Goals for per game: 2.80 (9th best)
Shots against per game: 32.8 (worst in the NHL)
Shots per game: 28.4 (3rd worst)
It’s also no secret now that Boucher turned the ship on the defensive side of the ice when he joined last year. His numbers compared to Cameron are much more effective and show how the Sens did so well. The Senators roster didn’t change a whole lot this year compared to last. This is one of the main reasons as to why everyone is wondering why Boucher’s tactics have evaporated.
The most important stat to take away from all of this is the penalty kill. Although the Sens finished 22nd in the penalty kill last year, it’s not as bad as it seems. The reason for this is the Sens last stretch last year. It came to a point where the playoffs seemed questionable. Up until their slump, the Sens penalty kill was amongst the best in the league. Guy Boucher’s future might be in doubt, but he’s shown he can coach a team to success with his defensive tactics.
Keeping Guy Boucher Means Less Class Time For the Ottawa Senators
Guy Boucher’s defensive learnings didn’t come into effect immediately during his first season behind the Sens bench. It took the team a healthy two months to get adapted to the brand new systems Boucher brought in. Once they got accustomed to them, the Sens were a well-oiled machine on the ice. When you compare Cameron’s stats to Boucher’s, you see one glaring difference. The goals per game. Under Cameron, the Senators were a scoring machine but struggled in their own end.
When Boucher took the reins, he wanted to sacrifice a bit of goal scoring if it meant they’d keep the puck out of the net more often. He did just that. Boucher even went as far as trying to split the offensive player among his lineup. Using forward Mike Hoffman on a line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Tom Pyatt. While that was considered the Sens third line, Hoffman still had an amazing season. Scoring 26 goals and being the scoring winger the Sens needed him to be after getting a new contract.
Guy Boucher’s Future: The Cons On Remaining Head Coach
Poor Line Combinations
If the Sens decide to show Boucher the door, it means they’ll have to get accustomed to system’s again next year. Having a slow start and struggling early on is something the Senators shouldn’t explore in defencemen Erik Karlsson final year. One negative about Boucher remaining head coach are his line combinations. As mentioned earlier, Boucher was a big fan of spacing out the offense among his lines last season. At times this season, he’s managed to put lines together that never seem to work. It seems like when he doesn’t see they’re unsuccessful, that he doesn’t make the appropriate and necessary changes. This has frustrated Sens fans this season.
It is normal for a head coach to make an error when putting a line together. Except when he doesn’t see he is at fault. That is when red flags show and it might affect Guy Boucher’s future.
Trustworthy Issues In Young Players
In addition to having poor line deployments, Boucher has had a hard time trusting his young guns this year. Although the likes of Colin White and Filip Chlapik have seen NHL ice this season, it hasn’t been for a long period of time. The only player who has seen NHL ice time for a while now is defenseman Thomas Chabot. With the horrible season that they’ve had this year, it’s hard to imagine the Sens don’t get younger for next season. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean the Sens lineup will be full of rookies and prospects. But it does hint that the team wants to get faster and continue to be good while acquiring young pieces.
Two likely graduates for next year would be Colin White and Filip Chlapik. If the Senators want to get younger from within their own organization also, they have to trust their young players. Still not being mathematically out of a playoff spot, the Senators have their work cut out for them. This is the perfect time to call up their young talent from the AHL to see what they have in them going forward. There have been many reasons why the Senators season has gone downhill, playing rookies hasn’t been one of them. If Guy Boucher’s future projects to remain in Ottawa, he’ll have to put his pride away for grit and experience and go with the younger players.
Will Guy Boucher Be in Ottawa This September
Considering that the Senators have been a coaches graveyard for last few years, it’s likely that Boucher is with the team next year. With Ottawa looking like it’s possible to get a lottery pick, general manager’s Pierre Dorion’s mind is all on that right now. It has been a long time since the Sens have been able to score a lottery pick, and they want to make sure they make the right choice when they walk up on stage in Dallas in June.
Dorion said that Boucher’s job is safe. Whether his mind has changed on that or not, only time will answer that question. For now, Dorion is dealing with scouting and trying to improve his team for next season. An end of the year sit down will be vital to the Dorion and Boucher relationship. That would be the time that he will most likely address his thoughts on Boucher remaining as bench boss or not. Guy Boucher’s future is unknown, but it’s hard to see him going away considering that Dorion has bigger fish to fry this offseason.