Guy Boucher has his Hamilton Bulldogs one win away from competing in the final series for the Calder Cup. His success with the Canadiens top farm team has much of the hockey world mentioning his name. He’s under contract to the Canadiens and is not available for job interviews until the Bulldogs season ends, which could be as late as mid June. It hasn’t stopped his name from coming up. And team mentioned most is the Columbus Blue Jackets, who fired Ken Hitchcock in early February. The interim, Claude Noel, was let go at the end of the season. Now, as reported in the Columbus Post Dispatch today, Boucher is head of the class.
Boucher is the coaching fraternity’s overnight rock star.
“There is an undeniable buzz about the guy, I will grant you that,” one NHL general manager toldThe Dispatch. “He’s hitting all the right buttons right now.”
Look at it this way: Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson is not a flavor-of-the-month kind of guy. If not for Boucher, Howson might be ready to name Scott Arniel, Kevin Dineen or Claude Noel the Blue Jackets’ new coach this week.
Instead, Howson is willing to drag the search into June for a chance to interview Boucher, who, in his first pro coaching season has led Hamilton to the Western Conference finals in the American Hockey League. Hamilton leads the best-of-seven series with Texas 3-2 after a 3-0 win last night.
The attraction makes sense on a lot of levels.
It’s the 1-3-1 system Boucher runs that has drawn attention. Others have tried it and then given up on it. Boucher seems to be able to make it work.
Boucher runs a 1-3-1 forecheck – which is rare in its own right – but it includes a highly unusual wrinkle. While the first skater into the zone steers the puck toward the outside, the left-side defenseman skates along the left wall with two forwards to his right and the right-side defenseman trailing the play.