Nobody was surprised Guy Boucher got the short haircut today. The first question was, “Why did it take so long?”
The second question was, “Is it Lindy Ruff time in Tampa?”
The Tampa Bay Lightning ranked among the NHL’s most startling disappointments this season. The addition of goaltender Anders Lindback did not cure the team’s goals-against problem
The Lightning’ highly-skilled offense failed to produce with the needed consistency. After winning six of their first seven games this season, Tampa Bay fell into a 7-16-1 tailspin.
With the Lightning sitting at 13-17-1 overall and five points out of a playoff spot, general manager Steve Yzerman finally dropped the axe.
For now, assistant coaches Dan LaCroix and Martin Raymond will run the team. Ruff and Tampa Bay’s highly successful AHL coach Jon Cooper are the top candidates to take over the bench. Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan and veteran NHL coach Jacques Martin are other options.
"I know what I'm doing and I'm trying to get it done," Yzerman told reporters in Winnipeg. "Hope to have it done quickly."
That triggered speculation that Ruff is his target. The Sabres fired Ruff earlier this season after his regime finally went stale in Buffalo after 16 years.
“It's been a strange feeling,” Ruff told reporters after his dismissal. “But I've got to keep going. I love the game.”
He is still regarded as one of the league's elite coaches. Many experts figured he would resurface with a new team this season.
As for Boucher, he figures to get another crack at the NHL some day, given his 84-62-19 career record with 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,” Yzerman said in a statement issued by the team. “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.”