The Ottawa Senators have made a change to their coaching staff — but it’s an addition, not a subtraction. They’ve turned to a familiar face, hiring Jacques Martin as a senior advisor to their coaching staff.
This move is a highly intriguing one, on multiple levels. First and foremost, the Senators are adding an extremely experienced former head coach to their staff, someone with a reputation as a strong defensive mind.
The Senators have actually surrendered the seventh-fewest goals in the entire NHL, which does not indicate an immediate need for the club to patch up its defense. That being said, the added experience definitely can’t hurt the Senators’ coaching efforts.
Experience is something Martin most definitely has, as he won a Jack Adams award all the way back in 1998-99 and first became an NHL head coach in 1986, coaching the Doug Gilmour and Bernie Federko-led St. Louis Blues.
Martin only kept that job for two seasons but he got a second chance to become a head coach when the Senators hired him in 1995-96.
Martin stayed in Ottawa until after 2003-04, embarking on a run of success that had been wholly foreign to the relatively young expansion franchise.
He reached the postseason in just his second campaign in the Canadian capital, and then eventually made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final with star players such as Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Marian Hossa, and Zdeno Chara.
Martin would then take charge of the Florida Panthers, and while he never managed to reach the playoffs there he kept the Panthers above a .500 points percentage in each of his campaigns in Florida.
After that, he became the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. His well-drilled defensive side rode excellent goaltending from Jaroslav Halak to the Eastern Conference Final, taking out two heavyweight teams in the top-seeded Washington Capitals and defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins along the way.
That stint in Montreal was Martin’s most recent as a head coach, though he did go on to have success as an assistant coach. He worked on Mike Sullivan’s staff with the Penguins as the club won the 2016-17 Stanley Cup, and then spent one year assisting David Quinn and the New York Rangers.
Martin’s appointment in Ottawa appears to come with a decent bit of intrigue. On the face of it, the Senators are simply adding a familiar face to help out a club currently struggling to build momentum in the standings. But looking at it a little bit deeper, this Senators coaching staff is currently highly embattled with a significant portion of the fanbase appearing to prefer the head coach, D.J. Smith, be dismissed.
Senators management in Steve Staios and new owner Michael Andlauer have thus far resisted firing Smith, reportedly due to a desire to maintain as much stability in the organization as possible. But in a campaign where the Senators are under so much pressure to make the playoffs, one has to wonder if the Senators can afford to retain Smith much longer, considering he is in his fifth year as the team’s head coach and has only once delivered a points percentage above .500.
By hiring Martin, the Senators have now brought a highly experienced, highly respected former head coach into their organization, someone who could now theoretically step in and serve as an interim head coach on short notice. That’s not to say this hiring is some sort of sign that a Smith firing is anything certain, of course, as the Senators’ ownership appears to remain committed to supporting Smith and prioritizing stability.
But in the case that the Senators endure another run of bad results, the type of run that would make retaining their fifth-year coach completely impossible, they now have an in-house replacement ready to take over in Martin. He’s someone with not only extensive experience in Ottawa but also extensive experience bringing out the best of the talent on his roster.
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