With another season beginning to slip away, the Ottawa Senators have fired head coach D.J. Smith.
GM Steve Staios broke the news to Smith after practice on Monday, and replaced him with the team’s recently hired coaching consultant, Jacques Martin, who also happens to be the winningest head coach in franchise history. Assistant Davis Payne was also relieved of his duties, and replaced by Hall of Famer Daniel Alfredsson, who recently joined the team in player development.
Interim GM Steve Staios made the move on Monday when he saw the team sliding back into old habits during their four-game winning streak.
“I always hoped it was going to work with the staff the way it was,” Staios told TSN 1200 radio. “D.J. brings a lot of good qualities. He’s done a lot of good things for our team and for our players individually.
“There was a five game stretch there where I felt we were heading in the right direction. We only won three of those games but it was still encouraging play. But to me, it kind of went back to where it was before. I just felt like this was the right time to give our players the hope and the boost they need, going forward.”
For the same reasons he was a good choice as a coaching consultant, Staios feels like Martin is a good choice as an interim replacement.
“A lot of our issues in team play are the strengths of Jacques Martin,” Staios said in a Zoom meeting with the media. “Detailed, structured, organized, disciplined. To me, he’s the perfect fit in what we were lacking in those areas.”
Staios and Martin both addressed the players earlier today after Smith had led them through a fun practice to try and loosen the mood.
“These are tough days,” Staios said. “I gave (the players) the rationale for the decision and the timing of it. We’re all looking for more consistency, detail, structure. Jacques has been around the group a little bit now and had an opportunity to address the group and his expectations.”
The question most fans have is, why did it take so long to come to this decision? The Senators have missed the playoff six straight years, four of them under D.J. Smith and headed for a fifth. Their current record is 11-15 and they’ve never had a record better than two games over 500 this season.
“You’re evaluating every night,” Staios said. “You’re trying to take the right approach to make sure they have all the tools in place to be successful. You want to exhaust all of that before making a big decision.”
Despite the welcome stability the new ownership has brought, some things in Ottawa feel rather temporary right now. The Senators have a temporary GM and now a temporary head coach. And if Martin can’t get the Senators turned around quickly, their slim 2024 Stanley
Cup playoff hopes aren’t long for this world either.