So long, Coach.

I just want to write a little bit about Guy Boucher’s apparent departure from Hamilton to Tampa.

It is obviously a big loss for the franchise. Sure, as of today I have coached the exact same number of nhl games as Boucher, but he’s indeed a very promising coach. His departure led some people to lament about the facts that the habs let him go, and that we are now stuck with Martin for the foreseeable future. An article on All Habs, a blog I usually enjoy reading, caught my attention for this reason. You can read it here.

This annoyed me a little, and I’m writing this because as much as I like blaming the habs when things go wrong, I think in this case they can’t really be faulted.

What exactly were they supposed to do?

– They couldn’t give an nhl job to Boucher a year ago. He had not coached in professional hockey so far, so that would have been a huge gamble. Besides, at the time, the habs were clearly looking for a veteran coach, after not so successful attempts with Julien and Carbonneau.

– They can’t offer him a position with the habs now. Say what you want about Martin (and I’m not his most passionate defender), but there is no way the habs fire him now. He got a 4 year contract a year ago (and that would have been the same if the habs had picked another candidate last season: no veteran coach would have accepted a one year deal), and given his profile it would have taken a huge failure to let him go just after one season. The habs did not have a great regular season, far from it. But they did make the playoffs. And then we all know what happened. Martin may have been a bit lucky (although I think he does deserve at least some credit for his team’s performance), but the habs ended up in the final four. They are simply not in a position to make a coaching change right now.

– Offering Boucher an assistant coach job in Montreal now made no sense. Martin and Boucher have very different approaches to coaching, and I don’t think having them work together in Montreal would have been very profitable for either of them, or for the team.

– They couldn’t prevent him from talking to other teams or accepting an nhl job elsewhere. That would obviously be completely counterproductive. If you do that, not only you make sure Boucher will go away as soon as his contract is done, but you also paint yourself as an organization with little respect for its employees.

The habs actually did the right thing. That was a year ago. They managed to lure him into the organization with their ahl team. Then they gave him the best possible environnment to work with, something he repeatedly thanked them for. Then they could just hope that this would be enough to create some sense of loyalty, and to give him enough reasons to stay with the Bulldogs until a position would open in Montreal.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened. Other coaching positions opened in the nhl before, and teams were interested by Boucher. You can’t blame Tampa or Columbus. You can’t blame Boucher. But I don’t think the habs should be blamed either. This is just unfortunate.

I’ll miss your pregame radio interviews with Flandersdude, Coach. Good luck and don’t forget your sun lotion.

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