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Guy Boucher and the Death of the 1-3-1

March 26th, 2013 at 1:43 PM
By Kyle Alexander Abney

Late last night, I listened to the popular Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast featuring Jeff Marek of Sportsnet and Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports.

On yesterday's installment, with the two co-hosts discussing the recent firing of Guy Boucher as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeff Marek posited that a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 9, 2011 was the first nail in the proverbial coffin.

Here is the play in question, which I'm sure many of you remember:

Marek says that after that game, General Manager Steve Yzerman was "livid" and personally went to Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren to apologize. He cited that game as the moment that Boucher lost the room and Yzerman's faith.

According to Marek, after that game, veteran players like Martin St. Louis, who was the lone forechecker in that "stall" moment against Philadelphia, began to tune Boucher out.

If this is what happened, it explains a lot.

The nosedive in possession metrics the past two seasons makes a lot of sense when you understand that Tampa Bay had a handcuffed coach trying to play his system without the core element of his system.

How you do that to a coach — take away the part of his game that made him successful in the first place, was the reason you hired him — is beyond me, but it explains why Boucher got away from preaching shot limitation and prevention the way he did in his first season when the 1-3-1 was used extensively.

While all of this is based essentially on hearsay, because Marek never revealed his source, shame on Martin St. Louis and other veteran Tampa Bay players if they started tuning him out over one circus act on national television, for caving to what was essentially petulant coaching by Peter Laviolette.

To sit and freeze the puck like that to protest the 1-3-1 was childish and embarrassing, but I guess it may have worked.

Lest we forget, the 1-3-1 was largely responsible for Tampa Bay's early successes under Guy Boucher. Its use correlates directly with Tampa Bay's strongest Fenwick metrics under Boucher as well as the run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Two straight non-playoff seasons have followed since it was phased out of regular use.

While the Lightning once again hit the reset button and the fanbase is galvanized again by the hope surrounding this franchise with a hotshot AHL coach, let's look back at Guy Boucher's tenure and consider, if what Jeff Marek says is true, the possiblity that it wasn't even his fault this team started to struggle in the first place.

May the 1-3-1 rest in peace. May Tampa Bay's future success not go with it.

Tags: Guy Boucher, Hockey, Martin St. Louis, NHL, Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Lightning

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