Benchmarks: The Treys

Four NHL coaches earned membership in the Trey Club during the 2010-11 Season: Guy Boucher, Barry Trotz, Randy Carlyle, and Dave Tippett.

Under my rating system a coach can earn three success points in the following ways: 1) earning a winning season, have a point percentage of .600 or better and earning a playoff slot; 2) earning a winning season, a playoff slot and make it to the Stanley Cup finals; and 3) earning a playoff slot (despite having a losing season), make it to the Stanley Cup finals and winning the Stanley Cup.

If you think the third option is impossible guess again the Chicago Blackhawks did it in 1938 and the Maple Leafs did so in 1949.

All four coaches named above scored three points by leading their teams to a winning season, a .600 or better point percentage, and a playoff appearance.

The best of the lot was Tampa Bay’s Guy Boucher. Making his NHL coaching debut Boucher earned coaching rookie of the year honors by posing the strongest challenge to the Washington Capitals’ stranglehold on the Southeast Division lead in years. It took a March slump to rob the Lightning of the division title but Guy Boucher and the Lightning were not finished yet.

The Lightning surged strongly in the last eight regular season games and then went on their wildest playoff ride since 2004. In the first round, down 3-1 in the series to Pittsburgh; Tampa rallied to win games five through seven; out-scoring the Penguins 13-4 in the process.

Then in round two the Lightning provided the greatest shock in the entire 2011 playoffs, sweeping the heavily favored Washington Capitals. The Caps had been picked by numerous experts (me included) to compete in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. This was supposed to be their year of destiny.

Instead it was the Lightning who played like a team of destiny. Despite the fact that they ranked 22nd in defense the Lightning contained the vaunted Caps offense and showing great cohesion and grit. The Lightning won eight consecutive playoff games during this stretch and what was amazing was the energy displayed by Guy Boucher. When watching Boucher behind the bench one could sense his emotional strength and catalytic personality; throwing metaphorical lefts and rights Boucher got a very young, raw team that still hasn’t reached its full hockey potential to play like potential champions.

Boucher was equally young and raw and yet he rose to the coaching challenge and got his team to rise along with him.

Sadly for Boucher and the Lightning the clock struck midnight in game seven of the conference finals against Boston but not before they provided the Bruins with the sternest challenge they faced throughout their Stanley Cup winning run. Yes, the Lightning’s performance against the Bruins was far tougher than the one the Canucks provided.

This is an awesome display of coaching talent and future potential which cannot be ignored. Boucher got the Lightning to write a magnificent first chapter in the annals of his coaching career. If what we saw during 2010-11 was a harbinger of what is to come then I know I will be profiling this man four or five years from now as being one of the top fifty coaches in hockey history.

Boucher’s upside is limitless and so the Tampa Bay Lightning’s as well.

Step-by-step, season-by-season, Barry Trotz has led the Nashville Predators forward and upward. The Predators put on a strong display in the Central division race, finishing a creditable second place to the Detroit Red Wings. Nashville possesses one of the well-disciplined defensive squads in the NHL. The 2010-11 Season represented progress for the team. Two of their players earned All-Star honors for the first time in Predators history and they earned a first round playoff victory—another team first.

The team the Predators beat in the first round: the Anaheim Ducks made a comeback too. After failing to reach the playoffs in 2010 (a first for Randy Carlyle) the Ducks came back and vied competitively with the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division title. The Ducks (like the Red Wings) are an aging team in the process of rebuilding and yet with a solid performance by goal-scorer Corey Perry the Ducks returned to the playoffs.

The 2010-11 Season was a straight replay for Dave Tippett and the Phoenix Coyotes. The only difference being that Dave Tippett didn’t win the Jack Adams award this time around. But when I say it was a straight replay it really was even down to the fact that the Coyotes lost to the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs like they did in 2010.

One again Dave Tippett got a team that is struggling to remain in Arizona to play strong competitive hockey.

Next week’s article will feature: The Quatre point club

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