Senators get their 1st choice in Guy Boucher

General manager Pierre Dorion Jr. and the Ottawa Senators went to great lengths over the past 24 hours to crush the conjecture that they lost out to the Minnesota Wild on hiring Bruce Boudreau as their head coach.

Owner Eugene Melnyk remarked in a statement on Sunday that Guy Boucher was the Senators' No. 1 choice. Dorion repeated that rap several times at Boucher's introductory press conference on Monday.

OK Pierre, we believe you. After listening to Boucher's passion and Dorion's timeline in his pursuit of his new coach, that included a four-hour meeting followed by a second eight-hour summit, it's not difficult to see why Boucher won over the rookie GM for a three-year contract.

Comparable playoff success

Besides, Boudreau and Boucher are even when it comes to conference final appearances. Boudreau helped his Anaheim Ducks advance to the West final a year ago and Boucher steered the Tampa Bay Lightning to the East final in his rookie season in 2010-11. 

Dorion made it clear he had Boucher pegged as the next coach of the Senators some time ago. Then the Ducks fired Boudreau, so the Senators did their due diligence and met last week with the head coach who became the fastest in NHL history to win 400 games in early March.

It was Boudreau's tremendous record, his experience, his flare for offensive hockey and his communication skills that led Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher to swiftly hire the 61-year-old Boudreau on Saturday.

'Hungrier than ever'

Dorion fell for the 44-year-old Boucher because of his attention to the defensive part of the game – remember his 1-3-1 system? – his power-play productivity, his player management and enthusiastic leadership.

"I can't wait to start. I'm hungrier than ever," Boucher said on Monday.

Boucher exhibited this eagerness by hiring Marc Crawford, himself a candidate as head coach in Ottawa and Minnesota, as the Senators new associate head coach. The two got to know each other as opposing coaches in Switzerland the past few years.

Even though Boucher is 11 years younger than Crawford, the former has packed a lot of experience in his life.

He was rocked as a teenager when his father passed away from bone cancer, growing up in Notre-Dame-Du-Lac, about three hours east of Quebec City.

Coaching path began at McGill

A mysterious illness then robbed him of playing junior. He recalibrated. He went off to study and play at McGill University.

He returned to the Montreal school for a second degree. It was then he began to help out former McGill teammate Martin Raymond on the McGill coaching staff.

He then bounced around between the QMJHL, AAA midget before landing with the Rimouski Oceanic as an assistant coach, where he helped tutor a young Sidney Crosby and win the 2004-05 QMJHL championship.

This success helped him land as head coach of the Drummondville Voltigeurs and again he won a league title in 2008-09 with current Senators forward Mike Hoffman as one of his top players.

There was a successful stint with the Montreal Canadiens' AHL farm team in Hamilton, where he coached P.K. Subban, and he lasted two-and-a-half seasons as the Lightning's bench boss.

Timing is (almost) everything

But why has it taken him more than three years to receive a second chance? A lot of it has been timing. He almost became the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach a year ago, but then Mike Babcock shocked the hockey world by leaving the Detroit Red Wings for the Maple Leafs.

Boucher returns to the NHL with a different perspective. He believes Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, and the rest of the Senators are ready to win now with a little nurturing.

"You can't expect a flower to grow if you pull on it," Boucher said. "Sometimes you have to put a little water on it in order for it to grow."

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