Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman introduced the first major hire of his tenure on Thursday, new head coach Guy Boucher.
The move had been rumoured as early as Monday, after it was reported that Boucher had turned down the head coaching job of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"I'm extremely proud and thrilled to be here," Boucher said from the team's arena, the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I think we have some great building blocks that we can work with," he added.
Boucher guided the Montreal Canadiens' American Hockey League affiliate in Hamilton to a 51-17-3-7 record this past season. The Bulldogs won the AHL's North Division and the Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Que., native was the recipient of the league's coach of the year award.
"I would like to thank the Montreal organization, not only for just giving me my first opportunity as a professional coach but I think also giving me the opportunity to grow as an individual and a coach," said Boucher. "They've been great to me and my family."
Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier reciprocated in a statement, thanking Boucher for his commitment the past season.
"His dedication was a key factor to the success of the Hamilton Bulldogs during the 2009-10 season, and the development of our prospects," Gauthier said.
Memorial Cup appearance
Prior to coaching the Bulldogs, Boucher served for three seasons as the coach of the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, culminating in a 54-win season and Memorial Cup appearance in 2009.
Boucher, who turns 39 in August, was an assistant to Pat Quinn for the 2009 Canadian world junior championship squad and earlier in his coaching career served as an assistant in the QMJHL with Rouyn-Noranda as well as the Rimouski team led by Sidney Crosby.
Yzerman left the Detroit organization after 27 years to take over as general manager of Tampa Bay on May 25, hoping to bring stability to a team that has endured a tumultuous past three years on and off the ice.
The former Red Wings great said he believes he's found the right candidate after talking to Boucher in recent weeks and through their mutual Hockey Canada experience.
"He is one of the best young coaches in the game today and I believe he is the perfect selection for our team as we look to create a winning environment and re-establish the Lightning in the National Hockey League," Yzerman said.
Tampa Bay went 34-36-12 last season, a 14-point improvement from the previous campaign, but Rick Tocchet fell victim to a housecleaning as new owner Jeff Vinik took over.
Promising young players
The club has promising young players Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, as well as key veterans up front, such as Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone. Tampa Bay is set to pick sixth in the NHL entry draft.
Boucher said he wants players who are relentless and adaptable, and that he doesn't believe in imposing a system on a group if it doesn't fit their characteristics.
The McGill graduate moved from playing to coaching in his 20s after an illness affected the nerves and movement in his right side for a few years. He eventually recovered.
"Life threw me a curveball, but it doesn't mean you can't hit it," he said. "Not only did it give me my hockey career as a coach but it also gave me my family because during that time I met my wife."
The Lightning didn't release contract details, but Scott Morrison of Hockey Night in Canada reported Wednesday that Boucher has received a four-year deal.