Evaluating Ottawa Senators Head Coaching Candidates

Evaluating the Ottawa Senators Head Coaching Candidates
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: Eugene Melynk and Pierre Dorion of the Ottawa Senators attend the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators head coaching position fillers have been plentiful in recent memory. Recent rumors and sightings place Patrick Roy as the front runner. For the nation’s capital, it seems like Ottawa is a graveyard for all coaches who go there. The latest coach to be fired by the Senators was Guy Boucher.

Now with prospects and rookies at the helm, the Sens are looking to get creative with their search. The team has already interviewed a handful of candidates, and we’ll be breaking them down below. Could the next head coach be Troy Mann?

Ottawa Senators Head Coaching Possibilities

Troy Mann

Troy Mann should be the Ottawa Senators coaching top candidate. Mann was brought into the organization in 2018-19 as the team’s AHL affiliate head coach, the Belleville Senators. The team went on to have a season as they’ve never had before, basically since back when the Binghamton Senators won the AHL Calder Cup in 2011.

Ultimately, the Belleville Senators did miss the AHL post-season by a hair, Mann was a huge contributor to their success. The ice-time distribution was something that the head coach took into serious consideration. With the likes of Drake Batherson and Logan Brown at his fingertips, he used them very accordingly. This is probably why Troy Mann should be your next guy if you’re the Senators. If this organization is really going to commit to playing young guys, why not hire someone who already has coached them before?

Mann Makes Sense For Senators Head Coaching Position

Aside from coaching most players who will fight for a spot on opening night next year, he knows the strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else. Is this to say he’s going to dress rookies for a full 82 game season? Probably not, but it gives you peace of mind that he knows who’s ready and who’s not. From all the candidates who have been interviewed, he and Marc Crawford know most about their younger guys in the system. Hiring someone who’s a completely new face to the team is going to take a while to get used to.

To summarize it for you, Mann clearly knows the players better than anyone else because he was around them for a whole year. For someone like that, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of time to bring together young guys and see them flourish. The Senators clearly have guys who have talent, it’s just a matter of how they’re used. With someone like Mann at the helm of all the younger players, it might be what they need at the end of the day. Plus, no matter who you hire, you’re not going to be good next year. From the looks of it, the Senators will hopefully be good in 2-3 years. The rebuild on, and hiring a coach who has managed their younger guys might be another stepping stone.

Jacques Martin

The name Jacques Martin will always allow fans to reminisce of the days he was bench boss of the Senators. Martin became the head coach in Ottawa in the midst of the 1995-96 season replacing Dave Allison. From the 12 coaches the team has had ever since it entered the league, Martin leads the way for games coached with 692. That’s from 1996-2004 and includes the year where Roger Neilson coached a total of two games for the Senators.

The bottom line is, Jacques Martin has a history in Ottawa. While the Senators did have success and clinched the playoffs every season Martin was there, the playoffs are a different beast. The Senators went all the way to as far as the conference finals with Jacques Martin throughout his tenure in Ottawa. Something that was to be proud of considering the next time a coach led them that far was Bryan Murray.

The Argument for Jacques Martin

If the Senators are looking for an experience in candidates, someone like Martin is a valid one. On the other hand, whoever takes over the Senators head coaching position needs to engage the younger guys into action more often than not. A factor that Guy Boucher was always criticized for was his stubbornness in playing younger guys. Whether it’s Jacques Martin or whoever else, they need to understand that if the team is setting up their success around younger players, those players need to see ice-time.

All in all, Martin might not be such a bad hire. The rich history he has in Ottawa might get fans to on board of his potential hiring. Any old school mindsets of playing veterans over rookies should be left at the door. For a team that’s rebuilding around key pieces, the ice-time of youngsters is vital.

When Jacques Martin was the head coach long ago, his goals for and goals against per game numbers were a rollercoaster at times. One season the Senators would score basically no goals, but let too many into their net also. With the experience he’s added since his last time with the team, you would hope more stability would come along. Martin could be a great hire if he can lead a young team to a glimmer of success for the time being. For Jacques Martin, it’s about showing he’s willing to trust younger players, something that ex-coaches have struggled with.

Marc Crawford

Marc Crawford is a name that many fans are not particularly ecstatic about being in the running for the Senators head coaching position. Crawford was given the interim title on March 1st, 2019 when Guy Boucher was relieved of his duties. That made Crawford the fifth most recent coach of the Ottawa Senators since the 2008-09 season.

The advanced numbers if you compare Crawford and Boucher aren’t any better for the Senators. Except there could be an asterisk beside Marc Crawford and here’s why. Is Marc Crawford the best coach to lead this team? Probably not. But to say he was the same as Guy Boucher is a shaky claim. Yes, the numbers might not be significantly different from him and Boucher but you have to look at the players they had. Boucher lost Erik Karlsson a day before training camp, and his numbers were abysmal even though he had Mark Stone, Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene. For Crawford, he had none of those three when he took over.

If you are going to use the argument that the numbers were relatively the same, you should also look at the situations both coaches were in. If you take away the three best players off a team and you still claim the coach laid an egg, now you’re just looking for anyone to blame.

The Argument for Marc Crawford

As mentioned before, there are probably better candidates to take over the Senators head coaching position. But make no mistake, there are others who have been interviewed that raise an eyebrow or two more. If Crawford is indeed the guy the Senators choose, the team will still have a bad season and he’ll still have bad numbers. Except that can go for any guy the organization hires.

Another thing that people sometimes forget about Marc Crawford was how he played the rookies when he took over. He also cut the minutes of Mikkel Boedker for the portion of the season the Senators had left. A player that was so heavily used by Boucher saw a significant drop in minutes.

As previously mentioned, Crawford might not be your A+ candidate, but a lot of the things he takes flack for are a tad unfair. It seems like at times people throw stuff at the wall to see if sticks, and not all criticism that Crawford has received is right.

Rick Bowness

The interviewing of Rick Bowness is probably a puzzling one for the Senators coaching position. Bowness was actually the Senators first-ever head coach in 1992. He coached a total of 236 games at the helm until he was fired and succeeded by Dave Allison. It’s obviously been a minute since Bowness was with the Ottawa Senators. Bowness has gone on to have many more opportunities with NHL teams. Without getting into specifics of duration, he’s worked for the New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning and spent the 2018-19 season as an assistant with the Dallas Stars.

The choice in Bowness clearly hints the Sens are looking for someone with experience. Whether that means NHL or AHL is unclear for the moment. Rick Bowness and his resume go a long way, but everything should stem back to one thing for management. Willingness to play young players. That’s really what should be the main focus point in all interviews taking place.

The Argument for Rick Bowness

Bowness is a strange Senators head coaching candidate and to some, it could be a PR stunt. The thought of an old coach coming back to bring the team back to success is something that is so Senators. Hopefully, it’s something the team avoids, but there wouldn’t be such a shock if this was done.

There are probably much better candidates in the mix than Rick Bowness. That’s no disrespect to Rick, that’s just being brutally honest about if he’s the guy for the team moving forward. The next two years for the Senators should be about teaching and building their core to success. Rick Bowness is probably not the guy you want having young players in the palm of his hands. Career wise he has a lot of losses to his name and could be near the end of his career sooner rather than later. Stability is another thing the Ottawa Senators need, and that’s not it.

Nate Leaman

Providence College NCAA coach Nate Leaman was also reportedly interviewed for the vacant position in Ottawa. Leaman should be another guy who the Sens should take a good look at. While he hasn’t ever had a coaching job in the NHL, he’s dedicated his entire career so far to NCAA. He’s been the head coach of Providence since 2012. His record with Providence is something to most definitely be proud of. In just concluding his eighth season behind the bench, Leaman sits with a 154-85-32 record.

The Argument for Nate Leaman

Every single interview that takes place needs to revolve around the topic of how each candidate is going to deal with the young players. You simply cannot be all in on a rebuild and misuse the talent you have. For Nate Leaman, who’s been around young NCAA players, it might not be hard for him to realize just how important they are in the NHL too.

Nate Leaman might honestly be the second best option for the Ottawa Senators head coaching position. Troy Mann is probably tied for first with Jacques Martin in most instances, then Leaman follows up. The scare of Sens fans in older coaches not playing their young players is a valid fear. They’ve seen it happen one too many times. In Leaman, they’re getting a coach who is still fairly young and has been around the block in terms of having young players at his disposal.

The shift for Leaman might be something to consider since he’s coming from the NCAA. All in all, though, it’s not the first time we’ve seen a time bring over an NCAA coach to the NHL. Dave Hakstol and Jim Montgomery come to mind immediately. Now those two might not be a prime example, but you have to look at what the situation is for Leaman and what it was for those two when they stepped in as head coach.

Nate Leaman is a very strong Senators head coaching candidate and would hopefully fit in nicely with such a young team in front of him. He’s already had the pleasure of coaching younger players and you’d hope he brings the same ideologies to Ottawa.

The Argument for D.J. Smith

Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith is another candidate. Smith has been with Toronto since Mike Babcock was hired. There’s really one argument you need to bring into this to prove he’s not the one in this case. So let’s keep this short and simple. Some people might tell you Toronto’s defense is just fine, while others might tell you the polar opposite. One thing that you can be sure of is that D.J. Smith operates the Leafs defensive systems.

For someone who runs their defensive systems, the Senators avoid Smith at all costs. The Senators showed they couldn’t for the life of them stick to Boucher’s defensive systems. Their numbers from his first season to his second and third nosedived into the ground. I know Sens management isn’t crazy about analytics, but even the basics of them tell you D.J. Smith is not a good candidate.

Hiring D.J. Smith would be crazy for the Sens. Their lack of defensive structure partnered with Smith would be a catastrophe to watch. Yes, you’re going to be poor defensively for a bit of time if you’re the Sens anyways, but long-term solutions shouldn’t be handled by D.J. Smith.

Patrick Roy

We have arrived to possibly the most Senators move of all time. It was reported by Bruce Garrioch this week that Roy was to be interviewed for the head coaching position. That is exactly what happened on Tuesday. Roy doesn’t necessarily fit as a coach with a ton of experience to his name. It’s odd because the Sens have interviewed people with lots of experience, to people with thin experience at the NHL level. For some, it might mean Pierre Dorion is thinking outside the box, or just not knowing the direction he wants to take.

The Argument for Patrick Roy

Not only did Roy coach a PDO hellbent in a team like the Colorado Avalanche in 2013, but the dude is also a complete hothead under the microscope. Some might think a character like Roy might help a team with so many young players but think for a second if 19-year-olds like being yelled at and treated like crap. At the end of the day, he’s the coach and what he says goes, but good luck telling that to teenagers and young adults in today’s day and age.

The main point here is that Patrick Roy clearly had a flash of good luck in 2013, taking a gamble on someone like that might not be what the Senators want. Remember that coaching changes are a regular occurrence in Ottawa, this hire should go to someone who has the skillsets to stick around. Flipping between coaches in the midst of a rebuild is gonna do anything but help the situation.

This order wasn’t ranked from best to worse, but Roy might honestly be near the bottom anyway. One last thing before we sign off, the whole narrative of he’d keep Eugene Melnyk in check is comical. There is no one who could keep that man in check. What Melnyk says ultimately goes. Patrick Roy is not going to change that. There was one man who kept Melnyk silent for the most part, and that was Bryan Murray.

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