Martin Raymond said he always knew what time it was and he didn't even have to look at a clock. All he had to hear was the knock on his door. Raymond, an assistant coach last year for AHL Hamilton, was renting a basement apartment from his boss and longtime friend, then-Hamilton coach Guy Boucher. "At 11:30 p.m. there always would be someone knocking on my door wanting to talk about the power play, the penalty kill, whatever it was," Raymond said this week. "He'd put the kids to bed and then come knocking at my door." Raymond, now a Lightning assistant, is not as accessible this season, seeing as he has his own place, so Boucher, Tampa Bay's first-year coach, works alone, watching video, pouring over scouting reports and copious notes, sometimes until 4 a.m. It does not matter if he is home or the team is on the road.
"My biggest worry is that I miss something, an edge somebody sees that I don't see," said Boucher, 39, in his first NHL season and the league's youngest bench boss. "I'm possessed by the idea I have to find an edge."
He has discovered plenty of them. The Lightning, 31-15-5 and exceeding all expectations, entered the All-Star break this week with the best record in franchise history after 51 games and the Southeast Division lead, and in second place in the Eastern Conference.
At least there has been a payoff for those evenings Boucher and wife Marsha have had friends over and Boucher, out of context, began scribbling an idea, a play or a line combination.
Same on restaurant napkins.
"I'll go to bed at 10 and wake up at 2. I've got an idea. I've got to write it down," Boucher said. "I'm relentless like that."
Boucher will be tested this week. With players off until Monday because of the All-Star break, Boucher and Marsha are taking a three-day Caribbean cruise — a surprise from her husband, Marsha said.
Boucher said he is not even planning to watch Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis in Sunday's All-Star Game.
The withdrawal symptoms?
"The last day, my wife will know," Boucher said. "I have these eyes that just take off. Philly is coming (Tuesday). Washington is coming (Feb. 4). I know we've been doing good, but … "
"Me and the kids are used to it," she said. "He takes his work very seriously."
Boucher — who said, "I've always been about family first" — hates that his job siphons away time from son Vincent, 8, and twin daughters Mila and Naomi, 7. He just doesn't see a choice.
"There is so much to do to make sure the culture (of the team) is set, especially the first year," Boucher said. "I don't want to pass by opportunities."
So, on nongame nights when the team is home, Boucher reads bedtime stories before opening his laptop to study video .
He attends as many of his kids' activities as he can. Still, he admitted, "It's only a few hours here and there with the kids. I feel guilty the minute I can't give time."
That is one reason the family spends two months every summer at a cottage in the woods a six-hour drive northeast of Montreal. There, Boucher said, there is no electricity (everything is propane-powered) and reception is spotty for a cell phone he checks only every two days "in case there is something urgent."
The cottage, 9 miles from its nearest neighbor, Boucher said, and near two lakes, was owned by his father, Wilfrid, who died of bone marrow cancer when he was 55 and Boucher was 17.
"It's the most important thing we do all year," Marsha said of the vacation. "Since his father passed, (Boucher has) had that fear of leaving early. He doesn't want (the kids) to lose their dad and not have spent enough time with him."
"I want to make sure they get something so they feel if Daddy is not there, he wants to be there, he is thinking about them," Boucher said. "You need to live things with them. Even if it's 10 minutes. I'll remember those 10 minutes more than an hour because those 10 minutes are precious."
Time also is precious when coaching. There never is enough, even when road trips remove Boucher's duties at home.
"The guy works," said assistant Dan Lacroix, who also was with Boucher at AHL Hamilton. "You don't get to this league and don't stay if you're not prepared. You're in this business, you don't count the hours."
Or, in Boucher's case, enjoy the cities visited on the road.
"It's been a battle to even get him out of his (hotel) room," Raymond said. "He'll hide and go over video clips of what he wants to do for the forecheck or power play."
"The thing with coaching," Boucher said, "is it really is nonstop."
Or, as he would say, relentless.