The Ottawa Senators announced that they decided to fire head coach D.J. Smith as of today. News of the firing broke Monday afternoon. Jacques Martin will take over as interim head coach.
News Release: D.J. Smith has been relieved of his head coaching duties; Jacques Martin has been named #Sens interim head coach. Daniel Alfredsson joins the team’s coaching staff as an assistant coach: pic.twitter.com/LZiNGB5Mbm
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) December 18, 2023
Ottawa Senators Fire Head Coach D.J. Smith
Ottawa had very high hopes coming into the 2023-24 regular season, combined with the new Michael Andlauer ownership group. So far, the Senators have been a streaky team and with an overall record of 11-15, something had to give. Since being hired by the Senators May 23, 2019, Smith had compiled an 119-137-32 record over 295 regular season games. The Ottawa Senators failed to make the playoffs under Smith. They have not made the post-season since their 2017 run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Smith was hired during the off-season before the 2019-20 season. The previous coach, Guy Boucher, had been relieved of his duties 64 games into the 2018-19 season, after posting a 22-37-5 record. At the time, Marc Crawford took over on an interim basis. Crawford, Smith, and others were interviewed for the job in 2019. However, at the time, D.J. Smith was an upcoming assistant coach, who was ready for a head coaching assignment. D.J. Smith had been with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization previously.
What This Means
The search for a replacement for Smith begins now. But President of Hockey Operations Steve Staios may well want a General Manager in place first. The Senators play under the Smith regime had been a bit inconsistent, especially given the overall record. Moreover, with the previous firing of Pierre Dorion, right or wrong, expectations were uncertain for this group. It seems the fan base had become restless, as the Senators attendance numbers have been good at times, but overall at 16680 it is below where the club and fans want.
Of the players, some have thrived under Smith. His hard work style had paid dividends for players like Brady Tkachuk, who was adamant in supporting his head coach all along. Other players have developed well under his time, such as Josh Norris, Tim Stutzle, and Drake Batherson. Conversely, some of the offensive players, in particular, Alex DeBrincat have struggled with D.J. Smith’s strategy in 2022-23. The two-time 41-goal scorer only had 27 goals through all 82 games thus far. Many have questioned Smith’s structural tactics, combined with lacking a strong puck-moving defenseman. The Senators have become accustomed to making costly mistakes that end up in their net. Therefore, the current management regime does have a good idea of what is needed in terms of coaching style for Smith’s replacement.
Main photo: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports