McKenzie: Rising coaching star Boucher in demand in NHL

Bob McKenzie

6/6/2010 1:54:13 PM

Will Guy Boucher be the next coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets?
Good question, because there are a number of interesting dynamics at work.
By all accounts, Columbus GM Scott Howson has offered the head coaching position to Boucher, who just finished his first year as a pro coach with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League.
It's only a matter of time until Boucher, widely perceived as a rising star in the coaching ranks, makes it to the NHL. Whether it's with Columbus this week remains to be seen. Columbus wants an answer by no later than Tuesday.
Boucher is an interesting guy.
For one thing, he's patient. Prior to becoming a coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Boucher turned down some job offers until he decided he got one that gave him the best chance to be successful.
For another, he's confident. He knows if NHL teams are knocking down his door now, that is likely to continue in the future, so he may feel as though he doesn't have to jump at the first job he's offered.
And then there's the Montreal factor.
Can the Canadiens really afford to let a homegrown Francophone product with some star qualities go elsewhere to ply his trade?
Well, Montreal head coach Jacques Martin isn't going anywhere, not right now anyway, just one year into his tenure with the Canadiens.
But valued assistant coach Kirk Muller is likely on the move.
Muller wants to be a head coach in the NHL. He knows in order to do that; the only thing missing on his resume is head-coaching experience. So Muller knows he's likely going to have to go to the AHL for at least one year just to prove to people he can run his own show. It is the way of the hockey world, more often than not. Some NHL GMs say they've been told Muller has permission from the Canadiens to look for a head-coaching position, either in the NHL or AHL.
So how about this one for pie in the sky: What if Muller and Boucher were to simply switch places?
Muller would be getting what he needs right now, a head coaching position in the AHL.
Boucher? He would only be an assistant coach in Montreal. So perhaps he is ready, willing and able to be a head coach in Columbus or Tampa or wherever. If so, he'll snap up an offer in the next week or two.
But it may be possible Boucher would value staying with the Canadiens as an assistant, especially if it's possible to put a succession plan in place where in a year or two or whenever, Martin would step aside into a management capacity and allow Boucher to take over as head coach of the Canadiens. Or maybe Boucher would simply be content to gain more experience without any promises and learn the league as an NHL assistant before making his move to become a head coach. There is something to be said of learning the NHL life before jumping into the deep end as a head coach.
The point is this, it would not surprise anyone if Boucher's head is spinning right now. There would appear to be many options for him and perhaps many more to come.
What is it they say?  It's hell being popular.
Meanwhile, talk out of Atlanta is that Boston Bruin assistant coach Craig Ramsay is the front-runner for the vacant head-coaching job with the Thrashers, but GM Rick Dudley says that the search process is still underway.