Everyone probably assumed he would want it. What AHL coach is going to turn down an NHL gig, after all?
Well, Guy Boucher turned one down. His decision -- reported Monday -- didn't exactly send the Blue Jackets into scramble mode. Instead, longtime Columbus beat writer Aaron Portzline reports the team has decided to hire Manitoba Moose coach Scott Arniel. He will be introduced as the club's new head coach at a press conference Tuesday.
Arniel played 11 seasons in the NHL, mainly with the Winnipeg Jets. After a brief stint with the Boston Bruins in 1991-92, he moved to the AHL and eventually the IHL, where he stuck around until the 1998-99 season. The team he finished his minor-league career with -- the Moose -- is the one he was head coach of for four seasons. From there, it appears he will move to the Blue Jackets, who had a poor season after their first trip to the playoffs in franchise history.
With franchise player and captain Rick Nash signed long-term, Arniel will be charged with helping develop depth along the forward lines, along with finding out if Steve Mason is a franchise goaltender or the disappointment he looked to be for most of his second NHL season.
Boucher's decision is at least a little bit curious. After all, he was in line to become the youngest head coach in the NHL, and he decided to pursue other opportunities.
What are they?
There are other openings in the NHL. New Jersey still doesn't have a head coach, and neither do Tampa Bay or Atlanta. Reports have Chicago assistant John Torchetti or Boston's Craig Ramsay in line for the Atlanta job, but no hire has been made. No one really knows what Lou Lamoriello will do in Jersey (or when he will do it). New Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman is still getting his feet wet. (UPDATE: Reports have Boucher taking the job in Tampa Bay.)
Is Boucher up for one of these jobs? Or is Montreal potentially calling?
Jacques Martin didn't exactly light the world on fire in his first year as the Canadiens head coach. Despite an active offseason, Montreal floundered in the middle of the Eastern Conference for most of the season, was never a contender in the Northeast Division, and rode one-time backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak to their magical playoff run.
Much of the credit for that run went to assistant Kirk Muller, a former Canadien who did a marvelous job behind the bench this season. Muller is a prime candidate to be an NHL coach at some point, but as Bob McKenzie notes, he likely needs minor-league head-coaching experience -- something both Boucher and Arniel have -- before he will get that opportunity.
Such a move would leave an opening on Montreal's bench, and an opportunity for the organization to keep Boucher -- a Quebec native -- in the fold. The locals would like that. It means the Canadiens would have two popular choices in the organization whenever Martin, who turns 59 before next season starts, decides he doesn't want to coach any more.
Even if one of them moves on to a different NHL organization, Montreal would still have options. And they'd be names that local fans would be happy with. Those types of things matter in Montreal.
This seems quite curious, yes, but it makes sense in the end. Boucher doesn't have to jump at the first job he can get, especially when the hometown team might need him. It's a great chance for Muller to finish off his coaching resume and better prepare himself for the eventual NHL gig.
For Columbus, Arniel is a solid second choice. He was a solid, hard-nosed professional player who has seen good success as a minor-league coach. He knows how to win, something they badly need to learn in the Arena District.