So much for those rumors linking Patrick Roy to the Ottawa Senators’ head coaching vacancy. The Senators announced this morning that former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant D.J. Smith has been named the team’s new head coach. Smith has agreed to a three-year contract to lead Ottawa, his first head coaching position in the NHL.
Smith, 42, may be a surprise pick to be the next bench boss of the Senators, but he is certainly as qualified as any first-time NHL head coach. Smith played eight seasons of pro hockey, suiting up for 45 NHL games but more memorably manning the blue line for the former St. John Maple Leafs of the AHL for parts of seven season. Smith retired from playing hockey in 2004 and immediately stepped into a role as an assistant coach for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, his hometown team with whom he had played his own junior hockey. Smith spent eight years in Windsor, two of which ended in Memorial Cup championships, before taking the head coach job for the rival Oshawa Generals in 2012. Smith’s time in Oshawa was short, but definitely effective. He compiled a record of 135-53-3-13 over three seasons with the Generals, won a Memorial Cup, and was named the OHL’s Coach of the Year. In 2015, Smith joined Toronto to begin his NHL coaching career as an assistant to Mike Babcock. Babcock made it known early on that he saw the potential in Smith and was grooming him to be a head coach and would not stand in the way of any move. Smith surely learned a lot from Babcock, but also contributed much to the team himself on the defensive side of the game.
Now, as he takes his talents to Ottawa, the Senators feel he can continue his upward trajectory. Smith’s history of winning, experience with young players, and focus on competent defense will all serve to benefit Ottawa greatly as they continue through a difficult rebuilding process. In the team’s release, GM Pierre Dorion states the following:
D.J. Smith is a winner. We believe he is the best person to drive the development and success of the Ottawa Senators. D.J is a great communicator and an exceptional strategist. His passionate approach, coupled with his ability to teach the game, is exactly what we were looking for throughout the process. We’re thrilled to welcome D.J. and his family to Ottawa.
Circling back to those Roy rumors, don’t close the door on the Hall of Fame goaltender joining the Senators just yet. The team is still in the hunt for a President of Hockey Operations and Roy would fit that description as well. One of the main reasons he left his last NHL post with the Colorado Avalanche was due to a lack of input in player personnel decisions, so he very well may be intrigued by a front office position. There’s also the slim but possible chance that the Senators would like to bring Roy in as an assistant to Smith, to help guide him through his start as a head coach. There is sure to be more movement in Ottawa this off-season, but their biggest move is completed with the hiring of a rival assistant to be their new head coach.