Former Sea Dogs assistant hired by Senators


Paul Boutilier is Belleville bound. The former Saint John Sea Dogs assistant coach has been named assistant coach of the Belleville Senators, the new American Hockey League affiliate of the Ottawa Senators.

Boutilier’s primary area of responsibility will be overall player development with a focus on the defensive side, a job he thrived in with Saint John, as he aided the development of top prospects such as Ottawa’s own former first-round selection Thomas Chabot, along with Boston’s Jakub Zboril and Montreal’s Simon Bourque.

“Saint John was a great experience for the last three years, we had a lot of wins which is great, but leaving the people in the community that’s really difficult,” said Boutilier, a first-round pick of the New York Islanders, who skated in 329 career games in the NHL.

“The Port City was like home for me, kind of like where I’m from in Cape Breton. It was like being at home with some good honest people that know the game and got to witness some great hockey through the years.”

The development of Chabot and Zboril under Boutiler’s watchful eye is obvious. But they way he guided and influenced Bourque’s career might be even more noteworthy.

Bourque had yet to be signed to a pro contract by the Canadiens upon his arrival in Saint John after a holiday trade from Rimouski. Many railbirds believed the sixth-round pick was slated for a return to the junior ranks as an overager. But Bourque blossomed under Boutilier’s tutelage and signed his entry-level contract in March.

“For me as a coach, it’s more important to care for the players as people, that’s the type of relationships I want to establish. You have to care for them as people, and work them on a personal level,” said Boutilier. “When things go wrong, it’s easy to point fingers. But when it goes wrong-which it will-that’s when you have to be standing right next to them.”

Boutilier’s ability to refine top ranked talent makes him the perfect candidate for the AHL.  Hockey’s top developmental league is getting younger and, in the salary-cap era, there is a premium on preparing the farmhands to make a quicker jump to the Show. Boutilier’s portfolio with Hockey Canada as the coach of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge level and the success he has had in the QMJHL certainly indicates his ability to mentor and get the most out of young players.  It’s clear his impact on Chabot made a positive impression on the Senators organization.

Boutilier’s hands on approach and systematic ability to teach the game coupled with his knowledge of the position makes him the perfect sounding board for young players.  

“I’m more of a teacher, coach, development guy, I’ve been very fortunate to win a lot throughout my playing career and certainly the last few years in Saint John have been very successful,” he said. “I worked every day trying to make the players better today and tomorrow and do the same the next day, and focused on the shorter-term goals.”

Drafted by the New York Islanders in the 1st round 21st overall in 1981, Boutilier understands the pressure and high expectations that are imposed on young players.  Amassing 120 points in the NHL, Boutilier provides a wealth of knowledge to young defensemen who want to excel at both ends of the ice. “I want to be judged on how the players develop and how they play.”

Matt Murphy, a member of the national-champion UNB Varsity Reds, played under Boutilier for a short time with the Sea Dogs.

“Right from the first day I met him in Saint John, you could just tell how much he wanted to help us develop both on and off the ice,” said Murphy, who was named to the AUS all-rookie team. “He would always do extra work with all of the defence. Even though I was just there for a few months, Paul really helped my development. The biggest thing I appreciated about “Boots” was how personable he was with me and all the other players.”  

Sea Dog blue-liner Chase Stewart described Boutilier’s influence and coaching style as calming, “He doesn’t panic and keeps calm on the bench during high pressure situations and you need that from a coach, he gives us subtle hints and areas to improve on during the game,” Stewart said. “He believed in me from the start of the year until the end and it really helped me to have the year that I did,” added Stewart. “Boots invested a lot of time in our defence group and it showed during the year as our team was very solid on the back end.”

Boutilier’s unique style and philosophy will be a welcomed addition to an already solid hockey culture within the Senators organization. “I really believe that the foundation to my coaching philosophy is having that connection with the player on a personal level, that’s how you are going to make them better hockey players and better at life, that’s what its really about,” he said.

“The ability to allow the players to make their own decisions and be part of the process is important in this day and age in the game. I personally feel that we as coaches should be more inclusive and that’s how you create and promote mutual respect with the player.”

“Paul’s contributions to the Sea Dogs, specifically to our defensive core were astounding, five of our six defensemen attended NHL Camps this past season and he deserves much of that credit,” said Sea Dogs president and general manager Trevor Georgie.

“We are a developmental organization on and off the ice,” Georgie said.  “Paul is a progressive coach, and we are proud and supportive to see him make the jump in his career.”


Photo: Vincent Ethier/QMJHL Media