No. 5 Reason Why The Bolts Are Primed for Success: No Quit in Boucher
Relentless mentality of Bolts coach electrifies locker room
During a season in which Bolts fans throughout the Bay Area were encouraged to "Be The Thunder," Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher personally obliged by bringing it instead.
With his team's playoff hopes fading with each and every loss heading into the final weeks of the regular season, several Lightning players rarely ceased to provide a list of varied responses explaining the cause of the team's shortcomings.
But, for as much inconsistency that typically followed each defeat, Boucher remained steadfast in identifying one quality in particular that had defined his team all season long.
"Those guys never quit," Boucher said.
That's because "those guys" are a reflection of Boucher himself.
With his strong sense of cerebral acumen comes a smashing list of personality traits that includes charisma, sincerity, and perhaps that which is most effective, an uncanny ability to inspire those around him to buy whatever it is he is selling.
This past season, in particular, certainly provided enough instances for Boucher to fetch top dollar.
For starters, the team had to deal with a high number of injuries to several regulars, causing the club's prospects to be recalled from its American Hockey League affiliate in Norfolk. Not to mention, there were late-season trades that brought in new personnel, which caused Boucher to frequently shuffle lines, mix and match defensive pairings and strive to find chemistry amongst a group of players who in some cases were unfamiliar with each other.
But as Boucher kept pressing, so did the Bolts.
"He can," center Adam Hall said earlier this season, "electrify the locker room."
Following a season-high seven-game losing streak in the middle of January, Boucher appeared to do just that.
With the playoffs seemingly unlikely to be included in the Lightning's summer plans, Tampa Bay finished strong down the stretch amidst a late playoff push, going 21-13-4 over its final 38 games and stringing together win streaks of three games or more on four separate occasions.
When it got the point where the Lightning finally were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, Boucher urged his team to keep pressing on.
"To me, it didn't matter if the race wasn't there for the playoffs," Boucher added. "It's still a show, and people come for the show. That's what it's all about. That's professionalism. So I have the utmost respect in the world for our players, and their resiliency, for their commitment and for not quitting."
The idea is for Boucher's self-described "relentless" style of hockey to become second nature, regardless of the circumstances. In fact, a number of Lightning players have said they really haven't come across a coach quite like Boucher in terms of his personality, or the way he approaches the game.
He once even assigned the team homework, having them read a novel about a World War II pilot who crashed his plane into the Pacific Ocean and survived. He knew whether or not the players read it too, because he quizzed them on it.
That said, in what has become apparent on several occasions during his two-year tenure with the Lightning, he simply doesn't expect accountability, he demands it. The same goes for intensity, work ethic, and effort.
"My job is to make sure the players are in the right state of mind, that they understand expectations are extremely high and that the standard for today is high, but the standard for tomorrow is even higher," Boucher told The Tampa Bay Times prior to the start of the 2011-12 season. "We forget the end of the year is a long process and we have to respect that there are steps in that process to get back on track."
Leading the way is Boucher and his new-age thinking. And as the Lightning head coach has already demonstrated, that in and of itself breeds new-found success.