Boucher sticks as Buff bashes critics and Knights baffle

SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.

Photo courtesy of NHLI via Getty Images

Change can be a good thing.

Of course, that adage doesn’t apply so much here in Ottawa where the status quo will remain for – at the very least – the next few months.

The surprise, from this corner, is not that Guy Boucher is back. The magnificent way in which the Senators have flip-flopped head coaches during the last decade is well documented, and really, isn’t enough, enough?

It can’t all be on the head coach.

If you want to point fingers, point them at the organization as a whole – the lack of a deep scouting staff, the erratic owner, the general manager and – oh yeah – the assistant coaches.

The players too.

What ails Ottawa isn’t entirely on Boucher, or MacLean, or Cameron, or Clouston, or Hartsburg, or Murray, or Paddock (there’s your list from the last 10+ years).

So, Boucher gets a return ticket.

The surprise here is that the entire assistant coaching staff is invited back as well. Ottawa finished an ugly 27th on the power play (16.6 per cent) league-wide, and 26th on the penalty kill (76.2 per cent) under its guidance.

If there were strategies employed here, I missed it.

Cynics (or realists, take your pick), will maintain it’s just another case of owner Eugene Melnyk saving his money by not bringing in a whole new crew.

They might be right.

Regardless, it’s a puzzler.

Now let’s take a glance at the rest of the story (thank you, Paul Harvey . . .) as the post-season rolls right along.

  • In a perfect world, hockey would consist of one Winnipeg Jets-Nashville Predators game after another. Kind of a never-ending cycle. This series mirrors the games between the two during the regular season: fast, punishing and relentless. As written in this space just last week, this is the true Stanley Cup final, featuring the two best teams in hockey. It will be sad to see one eliminated long before the final dance.
  • Is there a player who means more to his team in these playoffs than Dustin Byfuglien? Quick answer: Nope. Big Buff is certainly not the most talented skater on the Jets but he’s the one with the most ‘presence.’ He gives Winnipeg swagger and brawn. He reminds me of Zdeno Chara during the Bruins’ cup run of 2011. Byfuglien’s come a long way; at least in the media’s eye. Time was he was considered an out-of-shape and sometimes lazy player, particularly in his early years with Winnipeg/Atlanta. He garnered that reputation in spite of some pretty decent numbers – including two 20-goal seasons (although he did alternate between forward and defence). Ironically, Byfuglien put up his lowest point total (45) this past regular season since the lockout-shortened 2013 season. He’s been dynamic in these playoffs.
  • Vegas. Go figure. I never really got it until I saw it. Now I get it. This has to be the best-conditioned club in the NHL. Easily the best-coached. No one (barring Winnipeg) plays at a higher clip. Gerard Gallant’s ability to roll out four lines that all contribute is a gob-smacker. This is an expansion team. Remember: This is an expansion team. Unreal.
  • Reasons, reasons and more reasons: Tampa Bay might want to send a small card to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Christmas. The Boston Bruins were pushed hard by the Leafs in Round 1 and it showed versus the Lightning. The loss of power-play quarterback Torey Krug in Game 4 also played a significant role. The addition of veterans like Ryan McDonagh and multi-cup winner Chris Kunitz (remember me, Ottawa???) was a huge difference maker as well. Tampa’s superior speed also was an edge. Told you there were reasons . . .
  • It hasn’t been an especially scintillating point-producing playoffs for former Ottawa Senators now in the second round. In Nashville, Kyle Turris and Mike Fisher have combined for just one goal (Fisher) in a combined 22 games (prior to Monday night). Pittsburgh’s Derick Brassard has scored just once in 11 games and has watched his ice time drop. Boston’s Chara had but a goal and two assists in 12 games, while Tommy Wingels was limited due to injury and had no points in his four games played. Alex Chiasson of the Capitals has been used primarily in a checking role and has zero points through 11 games. And “Good, ol’” Cory Conacher is pointless in his two games with Tampa.

Playoff tip-ins: Should have named my new dog Brad Marchand, instead of Duke. I doubt I have to explain this . . . In light of the Tommy Wilson three-game suspension for (. . . um, pick your poison), reaction to the Capitals’ tough guy running roughshod over Pittsburgh has been drawing the ire of Penguin fans all series long. Tons of negative tweets centre on Pittsburgh’s trading of Ryan Reaves (recognized as the NHL’s best pugilist) this past winter. A sample: “That's what happens when you trade Ryan Reaves for Derrick Brassard. Brassard has been invisible while the Caps have their way with Pens.” “The Pens (JR) did nothing to replace the toughness from Cole and Reavo. None of this would be an issue if Reaves was still a Penguin – Pens are getting what they deserve.” . . . BTW – Wilson and Reaves did have at least one tussle. This was a few years back, when Reaves was with St. Louis . . . True story: My brother skated on a line with Wilson’s dad, Kevin, for several years in senior high school (LCC) in Montreal. As I recall – same type of player as his kid. I was a fan (even though I was forced to attend all their games with my parents, but that’s another story) . . . My take on heralded Jet Patrik Laine: Out-of-this-world shot, still a steep learning curve on dealing with playoff pace . . . Boston has a good one in Jake DeBrusk. Highly skilled, he also plays with an edge. He’s not near his dad’s level (Louie) who was the most feared fighter in the OHL in the late 1980s. When his London Knights rolled into town, many of the opposition guys succumbed to the “DeBrusk Flu” . . . The King Clancy finalists are in this week: The Sedin twins in Vancouver, P.K. Subban of the Predators and Jason Zucker of the Wild were named. The award honours “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community." Given the Sedins’ career and work, this is a no-brainer. Henrik won the award in 2016, as well. The twins have undertaken extensive charity work and handed out $1.5 to the BC Children’s Hospital. As great as they were on the ice, maybe they were better off of it: Reports say the Sedins have given their time and money to more than 50 charities.