TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Guy Boucher was hired as the new coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, taking over a team that hasn't made it beyond the opening round of the NHL playoffs since winning the franchise's only Stanley Cup six years ago.
The former coach of the American Hockey League's Hamilton Bulldogs agreed to a contract after turning down a chance to coach the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.
He replaces Rick Tocchet, who was fired April 12 after a 34-36-12 finish left the Lightning out of the playoffs for the third straight time.
At 38, Boucher becomes the youngest coach in the NHL. He led Hamilton - Montreal's top minor league affiliate - to the second-best record in the AHL this year, his first as a professional coach.
"Gee is an extremely intelligent, educated and knowledgeable hockey person who has been a part of successful programs at every level he's coached at, both as a head coach and an assistant," said Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who had stressed he would shy away from hiring someone with no previous NHL coaching experience.
"He's had a tremendous positive impact on every organization he's been involved in. ... He's a strong, charismatic leader, has a tremendous work ethic and passion for the game."
Boucher was a junior league coach for three years before leading Hamilton to 52 regular-season wins and a berth in the AHL Western Conference Finals this season.
His teams are known for playing an unorthodox offensive style, but both he and Yzerman noted one of Boucher's strengths is an ability to adjust to the talent available.
"For me, I'm not coaching systems, I'm coaching individuals. Managing people comes first on my list before managing either the group or systems. If I have 24 people on my team, I need 24 ways to coach. That's the way I approach the game," Boucher said.
The roster he inherits includes Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.
"They're offensive players, and that certainly goes along with my philosophy of fast-paced hockey. Very aggressive offensively and defensively," Boucher said. "They'll fit right in to what I'd like to do."