Sometimes it just takes a few days for predictions to come true and for the Ottawa Senators, head coach D.J. Smith just got flame-broiled and now is unemployed. Merry Christmas, Coach. Now clean out your office. The NHL head coaching carousel keeps going in circles and where it stops-nobody knows.
In all honesty, is the firing of Smith as the Sens’ head coach a shock to anyone who even remotely follows the NHL? Coaches are given a lot of money to make winners out of their squads and when they don’t, their services are generally not needed anymore and such is the case of D.J., Smith. Smith has now passed his initiation rite into that dubious fraternal order of fired head coaches this season and we haven’t even hit the Christmas season mark yet. Will any other coaches have to start updating their resumes in the next week or so? That of course is the obvious question that at least a few bench bosses need to be asking themselves right now.
The writing was on the wall for D.J. Smith.
When your team hasn’t made the playoffs in five years and you’re sitting at the rock bottom of the Eastern Conference, there is likely not much confidence in your coaching abilities, and for D.J. Smith, watching the Ottawa Senators turn into little more than an NHL dumpster fire this season meant that his time in Canada’s national capital was no doubt coming to an unceremonious close. The Sens are 11-15-0 this season and serve as plankton for the bigger, hungrier teams throughout the NHL. The only time this season anyone has even noticed this team was during their UFC on Ice routine against the Florida Panthers (and a certain set of brothers helped stoke that fire of course.) Otherwise, people tuning into Senators’ games on television are more likely to be watching their opponents.
Smith leaves a 131-154-32 legacy in Ottawa and their glaring absence from the playoffs also leaves a stain on Smith’s coaching tenure with the Sens. Losing four games in a row and seven out of the last ten no doubt sealed Smith’s fate despite the rumors on the contrary that he was about to become Elvis and leave the building. From the 2019-20 season until this year, Smith has tried to build a consistent squad that could bring a winner to Ottawa, and even with the signings of Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat last season, they watched the Stanley Cup playoffs yet again from the comfort of their living room couches.
The Senators are taking a trip Back to the Future.
When your current head coach turns up a bust, who do you turn to? Why not bring back the guy who had some success in Ottawa? Let’s go back to the future and hire long-time Sens’ head coach Jacques Martin. Martin coached in Ottawa from 1995-96 through 2003-04 and had a winning 341-235-96-20 record and won 31 out of 38 playoff appearances. Martin was brought in on December 6th as a team advisor and will take over as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. That alone sets the tone as Martin is the all-time leader in games coached in Senators’s history (692 total games.) Martin also ranks 17th on the all-time NHL list for games coached (1294.) Regardless if you like the hiring of Martin or not at least as a temporary fix, one fact remains certain: Martin led the Ottawa Senators to the playoffs every season he coached them during his previous tenure. That alone, folks is a big selling point in watching this franchise go Back to the Future.