After Tampa Bay Coach Fired, Lindy Ruff Emerges As Top Candidate

Nathan Francis

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher was fired on Sunday, and before the dust could even settle there was speculation as to who would follow him on the team's bench.

With the Lightning on its way to a second straight season with no playoff appearance, the team decided to fire Boucher and start the rebuilding process immediately.

"Guy has poured his heart and soul into the Lightning organization for these past three years and we appreciate all the work he has done," general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement. "But ultimately I am not satisfied with the direction we are heading and I believe making a change today is in the best interest of our franchise."

The team tapped assistants Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix to share coaching coaching duties for Sunday night's game at Winnipeg, but the search for a new coach seems to have already started.

Within hours of Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher being fired, speculation already built that former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff could be up for the job.

Ruff is closely connected to Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, serving as assistant coach for the 2010 Canadian Olympic team while Yzerman was executive director. In his farewell news conference on February 22, Ruff also made it clear that he wants to return to coaching.

Lindy Ruff would make sense to follow up the fired Tampa Bay coach. The former Buffalo coach would be a contrast to Boucher, who at 38 was the youngest head coach in the league and came in to the job with only one year of professional coaching experience and no prior work in the NHL.

Ruff served for 16 years as head coach of the Sabres, his teams gaining a reputation as hard-working squads with a grinding style of defense. While Ruff's system stopped working in Buffalo, it was more an indication of the players not buying in than the coach losing touch with the league.

Many hockey followers believed Ruff would and should get another chance in the NHL, and with Tampa Bay's coach being fired it appears he may have it.