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Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher and ex-coach John Tortorella used different approaches for similar goals

Guy Boucher, above, shows patience and charm at news conferences. John Tortorella once stormed off after 63 words.


Guy Boucher, above, shows patience and charm at news conferences. John Tortorella once stormed off after 63 words.

BOSTON — There are times when he reminds you of someone else. In those moments, he is no longer Guy Boucher the professor, or Guy Boucher the diplomat, or Guy Boucher the tour guide.

In the heat of the moment, when the camera lenses freeze on Boucher's face and he is wild-eyed and his arms are waving and he is cursing loudly in French, when his face is contorted until it looks as if he's Norman Bates approaching the shower curtain, you might swear you had seen him before.

In those moments, darned if it doesn't look as if Boucher has borrowed a cup of DNA from John Tortorella.

You remember Torts, don't you, the drill instructor in charge the last time the Lightning made it to the Eastern Conference final. Until now, until Boucher, there has never been a Lightning coach to compare to Tortorella, who drove, shoved and kicked his team in the general direction of the Stanley Cup.

Guy and Torts. Torts and Guy. They are so alike, and they are so different.

As you watch one in the Eastern Conference final, it is difficult not to remember the other.

"They are both very intense," forward Marty St. Louis said. "They are both very demanding. They just went about it differently."

Um, yeah. Think of Boucher as a surgeon's scalpel. Think of Tortorella as a Viking's broadsword. Think of Boucher as your favorite teacher. Think of Tortorella as your grumpy uncle. Think of Boucher playing chess. Think of Tortorella playing with fire.

You know, like that.

None of this is meant to lessen the impact of either coach. Frankly, the world needs diplomats, and it needs trail bosses. When you consider the job Boucher has done this year, and the job that Torts did in his years, Tampa Bay should feel a fondness for both men. At this point, the most fair thing you can say is that Tortorella was the perfect coach for the championship team, and Boucher has been the perfect coach for this one.

"I think there are a lot more similarities than differences," said Nigel Kirwan, the Lightning's video coach who worked for both men. "They're both pretty intense in their desire to win. And when they lose, they're both men you want to stay away from. Neither one of them likes losing, which is why I think they've both been successful."

Both men also demand accountability. Both men are fiercely protective of their teams. Tortorella was coach of the year in 2004; it's a travesty that Boucher won't be this year.

"To me, the key to coaching is to get players to buy into your system," Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "Both of them were successful at that."

That said, they are as different as Dungy and Gruden, as different as Piniella and Maddon.

Tortorella was confrontational. He was brutally honest, bluntly opinionated, and if he stepped on your toes, he would ask why your feet were there in the first place. Every emotion he felt was on his sleeve, and his voice had a volume knob that most coaches lack. When a player moved into his doghouse, you might as well forward his mail, because he was going to be there for a while.

Boucher is more cerebral. His voice is measured, and his strategies are meticulously plotted. As near as anyone can tell, he doesn't have a doghouse. If his voice gets loud, he says, it is because it is so darned hard to hear on the bench. If his eyes get wide, he says, it is because of the urgency of his message. Honestly, he says, he hasn't been ticked off, really ticked off, in months.

"If I'm yelling and screaming, I'm not going to do my team any good," Boucher said.

Want to know the biggest difference in the two? Ask a reporter. Torts handled news conferences by wrapping his answers in barbed wire. He had little time for the routine and little patience for many of the questions. Once, he spoke all of 63 words before storming off. Another time, he was clocked at 108 seconds. YouTube had to build an extra wing for Tortorella blowups.

Still, he could be fun. If Tortorella were still here, he would have told someone to shut his yap. He might have blown up at a questioner. He might have questioned his goaltender. One way or the other, Tortorella was a walking headline.

Boucher? He loves interviews. For crying out loud, his public relations experts have to lead him away at times. He is charming and engaging, and if you need it, he can probably bring his own microphone.

Early Monday afternoon, former Lightning players Dave Andreychuk and Chris Dingman sat in the seventh row of the TD Garden and spoke about the coaches past and present. Both won a Cup under Tortorella. Both are impressed with Boucher.

"Torts had a temper," Andreychuk said. "But you knew what he wanted, and you knew where you stood with him."

"Still," Dingman said. "I'd like to play for this guy. Torts would talk to you, but Boucher talks to everyone. He has 23 players, and he coaches them 23 different ways."

And how many ways did Torts have?

"One or two," Dingman said, and both players laughed. "Good mood and bad mood."

Different approaches, identical goals. There is room for that in hockey, too. It's okay to push a player to a Stanley Cup, and it's okay to calmly give him directions.

As long as the team gets there, everything else is just conversation.



Games 3 and 4 and a potential Game 6 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa are sold out except for tickets being withheld for new season-ticket holders. (Go to for season-ticket details.) Unused tickets will be released on day of games. Check with Ticketmaster (outlets,, toll-free 1-800-745-3000).

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher and ex-coach John Tortorella used different approaches for similar goals 05/16/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 16, 2011 9:20pm]
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