Lightning strikes: Guy Boucher to be named new Tampa head coach

It’s not often you get a roller coaster of a day like this when it comes to head coaching moves. The day started off with Hamilton Bulldogs coach Guy Boucher turning down an offer to coach the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets then, very professionally, moved to the next man on their list and tapped Manitoba Moose head man Scott Arniel to be their next head coach. Now it appears we know why Boucher shot down the Blue Jackets as a report out of Quebec suggests he’s headed to Tampa Bay to coach the Lightning.

According to Quebec website Rue Frontenac (link in French) and later confirmed by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, via Twitter, Guy Boucher will be named the new bench boss of the Lightning this week. Julian Sanchez of Pension Plan Puppets was kind enough to give a translation of Rue Frontenac’s piece for us to share with you here.

According to three sources, the hiring will be announced at a press conference in Tampa on Wednesday.
 
The most coveted coach in America has tendered his resignation to the Canadiens and Bulldogs organisations and is headed to Florida in the company of two of his assitants Martin Raymond and Daniel Lacroix.

The departure of his assistants is still uncertain according to our sources. However, it does seem strongly possible that they will rejoin Boucher behind the bench in Tampa.

Lacroix has already been an assistant with the New York Islanders.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie backed up what was said by Rue Frontenac through Twitter saying this:

Sources say Boucher deal will be finalized in morning. Believed to be for 4 years. Rue Frontenac reporting his Hamilton staff joining him.

This is a whole lot of drama for fans in Montreal as many fans had their hearts set on Boucher being the next head coach of the Canadiens, especially after all the success had by the 38 year-old head coach in AHL Hamilton this year. With head coach Jacques Martin having his major ups and downs with the Habs this year, many fans and supporters saw Boucher as the beacon of hope for the future, believing that Martin’s future wasn’t long in Montreal. It appears that if Boucher is indeed gone and his whole staff is going with him, the Canadiens will be left with a lot of explaining to do to their fans both in Montreal and in Hamilton.

As for Tampa Bay, general manager Steve Yzerman gets his man, albeit with a fair amount of drama surrounding the selection now. Boucher gets to coach a team that is headlined by Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Victor Hedman. Those aren’t bad starting blocks for any coach to work with and for Boucher, his choice of going to Tampa over Columbus is one to likely sting Blue Jackets fans as much as it will jilted Montreal fans. After all, it appears that Boucher is opting for the wealth of talent in Tampa over Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Steve Mason in a much tougher Central Division and Western Conference.

 

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    Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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    Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

    The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

    Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

    You can watch the play by clicking here.

    Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

    The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

    ‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

    Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

    His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

    It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

    He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

    His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

    “It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

    Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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    The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

    On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

    The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

    “Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

    “We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

    Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

    Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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    When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

    His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

    It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

    Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.