OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — The Ottawa Senators fired coach Guy Boucher on Friday and named assistant Marc Crawford as the interim replacement with the NHL’s last-place team mired in a six-game losing streak.
The 47-year-old Boucher coached the Senators to within one victory of the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 in his first season behind the bench. He previously got Tampa Bay to within one victory of the final in 2011, but his stop in Ottawa was a much different story.
General manager Pierre Dorion had given Boucher a vote of confidence as recently as Monday. He said he decided a change was needed Thursday night, when the Senators lost 4-2 at home to Edmonton, but slept on it first before advising team owner Eugene Melnyk.
He said “a different set of coaching and leadership skills” was needed to guide a young team through its rebuild, which includes 17 picks in the first three rounds of the next three drafts..
“For both parties we just felt it was time to move on,” Dorion said.
Boucher is the seventh coach to be fired this season. The Senators are 22-37-5 and in last place among the league’s 31 teams.
Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki seemed to suggest change wasn’t a bad thing.
“It’s one of those things if you keep doing the same thing and the results aren’t there, then it’s tough to keep players engaged,” he said, according to The Canadian Press. “There needs to be a way to keep players engaged to show that there’s maybe a change to be had or a change to be made that’s going to help us progress forward — and when it doesn’t happen, personnel change will happen.”
He also said the problems were not all on Boucher, who ends his career in Ottawa with a 72-71-21 record.
“The onus is on everyone here,” Borowiecki said. “I’ve said it numerous times and I’ll say it again this is a results-driven, results-based business, and we’re not getting results and we haven’t been getting results for a long time.”
The 58-year-old Crawford, who coached the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in 1996 and has been a head coach at various stops for 1,151 games, has been an associate coach on Boucher’s staff the past three seasons. He will take over as head coach starting with Saturday’s game at Tampa Bay.
“They’re a group that emotionally is as good as any Stanley Cup team that I’ve been around,” Crawford said of the Senators. “The measure of the personality in that room is extraordinary. These are young guys, really young, and they are in a situation that is very, very difficult. This is nobody’s fault, but this is a business where you’re judged all the time.”
Dorion said the Senators will search for a new coach after the season, someone who can teach, listen and communicate to let “every team member know where they stand and what is expected.”
“We will hire the best coach available,” he said. “That meets our needs for this team to grow. To set a culture that we need to have success and to put us on the right path. We did that last time and we’re going to do it again when we hire the next coach, whether it’s Marc or someone else.”
The move comes amid a tumultuous stretch for the Senators, who saw Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman depart long before the woes of this season set in.
The team traded its three top scorers for younger players and draft picks before Monday’s trade deadline after the Senators couldn’t come to terms with pending free agents Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. Ottawa missed the playoffs last season after making an early trade to acquire Duchene. The Senators sent a first-round pick to the Avalanche in the deal and now that selection could be first overall this year.
Earlier this week, a plan for a new downtown arena for the Senators was killed after the National Capital Commission announced mediation had failed to resolve a dispute between Melnyk and project partners.
For now, Dorion expects his players to compete to win and not just ride out a lost season. He expects Crawford to play the youngsters to develop them.
“We’re fielding a team from now until the end of the year that can win games and we want to see this team win games, develop, grow and have a great culture,” Dorion said. “Play for one another, play for the coaching staff, more importantly play for our fans.”
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