Guy Boucher’s superb rookie season in as an AHL bench boss earned him an NHL job on Thursday when the Tampa Bay Lightning named the 38-year-old as their new coach during a introductory press conference at St. Pete Times Forum.
Boucher becomes the youngest coach in the NHL — and the second new coach named this week. Columbus hired 2009 AHL coach of the year Scott Arniel on Tuesday, one day after Boucher turned down the job. Atlanta and New Jersey are still without coaches.
Getting the Lightning job caps a meteoric rise for Boucher.
He coached the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to the Memorial Cup in 2009, then took over Montreal’s top farm team in Hamilton and led the Bulldogs to a 52-17-11 record and a trip to the Western Conference Finals — earning the American Hockey League coach of the year award.
He’s the fourth coach to win 50 games in his first AHL season, and now Boucher is the 23rd of the 30 NHL bench bosses who previously coached in the AHL.
Arniel and Boucher become the sixth and seventh NHL head coaches who previously won the AHL’s coach of the year award, joining the N.Y. Islanders’ Scott Gordon (2008), Boston’s Claude Julien (2003), Philadelphia’s Peter Laviolette (1999), Nashville’s Barry Trotz (1994), and Dallas’ Marc Crawford (1993).
Boucher and the Lightning’s new general manager, 45-year-old Steve Yzerman, are the youngest coach-GM in the NHL. Boucher replaces Rick Tocchet, who along with GM Brian Lawton was let go by new owner Jeff Vinik on April 12 after the Lightning missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. Tampa Bay finished with a 34-36-12 record despite the presence of 51-goal scorer Steven Stamkos and offensive stars Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.
Boucher also has a unique resume for an NHL coach, with three academic degrees — a master’s in sports psychology and bachelor’s degrees in biosystems engineering and history.