If, from a coaching standpoint, the Lightning's Guy Boucher had one thing to change about last season, it would be this: more quickly identifying the correct slots in which to put players to maximize their production.
"It took us a longer time than I expected to find out who was what, who was able to fill what role," he said. "It's something (next season) I'd like to accelerate."
It has been a busy offseason for Boucher, 41, who was an assistant coach for Canada at the world championship. Though Canada fell to Slovakia in the quarterfinals, he said the stint broadened his coaching perspective, which only can help as he tries to boost the Lightning's power play (tied for 25th in the 30-team league), its fortunes on the road (13 wins, tied for second worst) and get it back to the playoffs.
"It was a great opportunity to perfect yourself as a human being and a coach," Boucher said.
What did you take away from the world championship?
You get to share with other NHL coaches, which you don't normally do during the year, and you get to pick their brains. You see European coaches you didn't know, and you're able to watch their practices, get some ideas. And because you play against different teams from different countries, they all have different styles. So it gives you a different perspective on what you're doing, and it can give you some ideas to bring back to your team. It's a great opportunity to coach other guys at such a high level and to be able to not just learn, but to apply what you got.
How disappointing was it to not get past the quarterfinals?
It was a weird ending for three out of our four favorite teams. I mean, on the same day, three favorites — us, the U.S. and the Swedes — all lost, and we all lost in the last moments. So it was a weird, kind of Twilight Zone day.
What did you think of Swiss star right wing Damien Brunner, whom Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been open about wanting to sign?
He's very fast. He's got a great shot. He's very opportunistic in the sense that he reads the spaces very well. Wherever the puck's on the ice, it seems to follow him. He's very good at getting open at crucial moments.
Can he fill a top-six role?
That's certainly not something I would like to project. That's putting too much pressure on him. First, we need to be able to sign him. Two, we'd have to see how he adapts. Those Europeans, they all have their adaptation period. It's a very different game over there, and therefore, you never know.
What do you take from last season that you can apply to 2012-13?
It took us a longer time than I expected to find out who was what, who was able to fill what role. It's something (next season) I'd like to accelerate; get guys in their slots and try to improve the beginning of the season. You're not going to win a Stanley Cup in the first month or month and a half. But when you put yourself behind the eight ball to start, it's more difficult to get confidence. And that was something for us.
Is that coaching evaluations?
It's just we had some new players. I personally put them in slots, and some of those players weren't able to play in those slots. And I might have given them a longer chance than I probably will (next season). I want to be able to start on a good note. Now, that's easily said. If you get new players, it does take time to get to know those guys and where they fit and all that. But certainly I'm going to put a lot of time and work into figuring out the new guys — if there are any — and really trying to put the guys in the slots they're best at.
You call the power play "your baby." So from a coaching standpoint, what can be done to help?
Teddy Purcell was on the power play to finish the year, and he clicked with the guys. So there's good information to start the year. That fits into the same thing about what I said. We figured out a lot of stuff as the year went on. It took, for instance, Teddy Purcell about a half a year to be able to be consistent and play as a real top-two line guy, so we won't have that problem next year. This information sometimes takes a lot of time to gather during the year. So there were a lot of good things that happened last year, and that's what we have to draw from.
It is clear assistant coach Wayne Fleming, who has brain cancer, will not return. Will you add an assistant or, as Yzerman hinted, a coaching consultant?
We're still looking at things. Right now, it's more of a thinking period and looking at options — what would be the best, which people are available, too, and if we want to add to our staff. That kind of decision, it's not something that's urgent. It's something I want to take my time with to make sure we do the right thing. In the end, it's what's going to help the players the most.
With some of your top guys aging — Marty St. Louis will be 37 in July — is there more urgency to win now?
You always feel urgency to win no matter what, so it really doesn't change anything. I think the only one — Vinny (Lecavalier) is 32, so that's not old — is Marty. We have (Mattias) Ohlund, and he's 35. But I don't know what's going to happen to Ohlund (who is rehabbing major knee surgery). So Marty is the only one. He's going to be 37, but he plays like he's 32. He's so in shape. If he wants to play another five years he will. The urgency we have is we want to put a really good team on the ice … and that doesn't change whether he's 37 or not. We want to be better than we were last year. We're expecting ourselves to be better.