TAMPA — It was mid December when Guy Boucher understood he needed a change of pace.
The moment of clarity came while the Lightning coach broke down yet another opposing-team video, which pretty much was his primary undertaking during the 113-day NHL lockout.
"You can always want more," Boucher recalled this week at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "But when you start taking stats like in the last five years how many wraparound goals have been scored and why and for which side, you know at that point it's ridiculous."
But that is what happens when you are a coach without a team, a coach drawing a paycheck while unable, because of a labor war between players and owners, to do the job for which he was hired.
You immerse yourself in what you know.
"We did everything we could," he said, "not just me, the entire staff did everything we could to improve and control what we can control."
But as Boucher, 41, found out, the lockout also unlocked doors.
It was the first time during a hockey season he could, as he said, "lead a semi-normal life when you could be (home) at night and you're a partner every day to your spouse."
For the first time Boucher coached son Vincent, 10, in a hockey tournament. Always a reader, he devoured books on psychology, in which he has a degree. He said he even read up on the career of Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.
And Boucher fed his passion for landscaping by continuing to transform the backyard of his Brandon home.
"We laugh about his palm trees and how excited he gets about the different trees and plants," Tampa Bay assistant coach Dan Lacroix said. "He loves it."
By Boucher's count, his property has 21 kinds of palm trees. There are colorful butterfly bushes and so much else, he said, "You name it I have it."
At first he hired people to bring in the biggest trees. But at this point, he said, he is just as involved in the planting and upkeep.
"I overdid it," Boucher said. "It's like everything else I do. This could be better and this could be better."
He coaches that way, too, at least once last season conducting a full-scale practice the morning of a game.
Boucher even joked that after three weeks watching Vincent and 9-year-old twins Naomi and Mila while wife Marsha visited family in the Netherlands and Italy, "The first thing my kids said when mom was back was daddy was like the military."
They mocked him for burning the sausages one night while cooking dinner.
And though Boucher probably won't do it again because he believes it put too much pressure on his son, and him, he said coaching Vincent's four-on-four team was fun even though they lost in the tournament final.
All of it, Boucher said, is cherished.
"It was the first time in my life, really, that I had that much time with the kids like a normal person," he said.
Even so, "I would say at the beginning, 'Okay, I'm supposed to be at work now.' You feel weird. You really do. We're (competitors), creatures of habit and my habit has been coaching. It's really different. I felt guilty the whole time, to be honest with you. That's what I battled most."
The videos, of course, always were there.
Whether Boucher, Lacroix or assistant coach Marty Raymond were at their homes or their Times Forum offices, they poured over opponent videos. If NHL Network was replaying a game, they would sit and watch that, too, Lacroix said:
"You look at the better teams and what they did well. I looked at playoff games. You try to look at the whys, and that's all valuable information that you have on your side."
Such as why the Flyers in last season's playoffs went 12-for-23 (52.2 percent) against a Penguins penalty kill that was third in the league in the regular season.
"We watched everybody's power play. We watched everybody's penalty kill," Boucher said. "We watched five-on-five. We watched the defensive zone, which teams did what in the neutral zone. We've got too much information."
"It's time," he added, "to focus on our team."
The landscaping can wait.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]