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Boucher appreciates talent he has in Ottawa

Senators new coach sees Karlsson as elite, compares Hoffman to Stamkos

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent

OTTAWA -- When Guy Boucher was introduced as the new coach of the Ottawa Senators on Monday, a question he heard often was what he would do to make defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Mike Hoffman, two talented offensive players, more responsible defensively. 

Boucher's answer?

He doesn't like the word change.

"For me, I don't like it because to me it means a 180-degree turnaround," he said. "With anybody I would totally disagree. People at this level got here because they have certain strengths. Whether it's Mr. Karlsson or any other player, you've got to recognize the great things that they do first. Very often we make that mistake of focusing on the weaknesses and that's all we talk about. And what happens over time is the weaknesses take over the strengths.

"We have here an unbelievable offensive defenseman. He's the best in the League. I think you've got to cherish that and you've to respect that and you've got to drive your team with his strengths. We don't want to change that. Does he have to evolve in certain areas of the game? Absolutely. But that's every player."

Boucher, 44, was hired Sunday to replace Dave Cameron, who was fired April 14 after the Senators failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said Monday that Boucher was his first choice as coach.

Dorion had met with Boucher for two interviews which totaled 12 hours. The second included assistant general manager Randy Lee and senior adviser hockey operations Daniel Alfredsson.

"I asked Randy, 'Who's your No. 1 choice? I'll write it down on a piece of paper, you write it down on piece of paper.' He wrote down Guy Boucher. I put on a piece of paper Guy Boucher," Dorion said. "I want to make it clear to everyone this was my candidate. No doubt in my mind from the first time I met him I felt that this would be the guy to lead the Ottawa Senators.

"To me a good coach makes a bad team into a fair team, a fair team into a good team, a good team into a real good team and a really great coach makes a good team into an excellent team. I come from a scouting background, but over my years in the NHL I realize a good coach can have a really big impact. To me, with Guy, I really feel we have that for our organization."

Video: Guys discuss Boucher hiring for Senators

Boucher said he's learned a lot since his first NHL opportunity ended 32 games into his third season with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012-13. He's spent the past three seasons coaching Bern in Switzerland. He said that experience has taught him to focus on what he can and can't control.

"In the NHL there are a lot of things you can't control, and when you start your first gig it's hard to accept," he said. "Over time you realize there are things out of your control. Don't spend any time on that. Don't spend any energy on that. That will give me a lot more energy to be spent somewhere else where it will matter more.

"Just living in the NHL, regardless if you have success or not, I think is key because it's a grind. And until you live it you can't understand what it is. That's taken care of. I know what to expect. I came barging into the NHL as a young 38-year-old and you kind of go your way and decide to adjust later. I think now coming in a second time the perspective is different. The planning will be different. Managing players, though, that won't be any different. I think that has been one of my strengths, connecting with players.

"I just can't wait to start. I'm hungrier than ever."

Two of the players he's most looking forward to learning about are Karlsson and Hoffman.

Karlsson led the Senators with 82 points and Hoffman led them with 29 goals.

Boucher said he has coached superstar players throughout his career, from Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban with Hamilton of the American Hockey League and Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.

He said star players need to be allowed to play to their strengths.

"If you take that away, you take their swagger away," he said.

"I love [Karlsson's] speed. To me, the thing he has more than everybody is the possibility of speed of hands … speed of feet, and I think that's something every player on our team has to look up to. That won't change. That's something that's going to be at the forefront of our team.

"Other guys will be the standard for our defensive game."

Video: Friedman on the new Senators Head Coach Guy Boucher

Boucher has a history with Hoffman, who will be a restricted free agent July 1. He coached him with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL in 2008-09; that season Hoffman scored 52 goals and Drummondville won the league title.

"I thought it was a terrific challenge when we got him because I saw right away there was passion, there was skill, probably in some ways misdirected," Boucher said. "Like all young players there were a lot of things to work on and Mike was willing to do so. We did spend a long time together, a lot of moments alone with the video, times where he got a pat on the back and times where he found it probably tough with me. I think we were a contending team and he was certainly a big part of it.

"What I like about Mike was he responded. He really responded to everything that I tried with him. I'm really looking forward to working with him again. We won a championship together so we're definitely looking forward to winning another one. He's one of the players on this team that I think is a game breaker. When you have an asset like that you cherish it."

Hoffman led the Senators with nine power-play goals but was sixth among forwards in power-play ice-time per game. Finding more man-advantage ice time for Hoffman is one of the ways Boucher can fix a power play that was 26th in the League at 15.8 percent.

Boucher compared Hoffman to Stamkos and John Tavares of the New York Islanders.

"When I look at the power play there are great assets here," he said. "I worked with Mike Hoffman in junior and I had him do similar things that I did with Stamkos in Tampa and Tavares when I had him three times with Hockey Canada. Those guys are shooters. Definitely I do have a plan with Mike. I have a plan with the other players, also. Erik is the best straddler on the blue line you can find. We're definitely going to use that in our tools. I like an accelerated power play. That's the way I've been teaching it for 20 years.

"More than anything else it's details."

Boucher believes there are a few details that need to be fixed for the Senators to return to the playoffs.

"This team is ready now to play well, right away," he said. "You want the flower to grow. If you pull on it, it won't grow. It will die. Sometimes it takes a bit more time to put some water and wait for it to grow. That's what we'll need with some players."

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