The Ottawa Senators finally made the long-awaited move by firing head coach D.J. Smith on Monday amid another underwhelming campaign in Canada’s capital. Fans have since turned on Smith, with “Fire Smith” chants taking place during Senators home games. Smith is the sixth head coach to get fired so far this season.
The teams that have already made mid-season changes to their bench bosses have changed for the better. Most notably, the Edmonton Oilers were 10-3 in their first 13 games under Chris Knoblauch (Edmonton has since lost two additional games).
That trend would suggest the coaching change might have an instant return for Ottawa for better results, at least in the short term.
On the other hand, Senators fans might be mad it took this long. The Oilers seemed dead and buried until the coaching change and ensuing play brought them back into contention.
The Ottawa Senators made a coaching change earlier this week.
Had DJ Smith not been given such a generous timetable, maybe the same could have happened to the Senators. There’s one reason that we think Ottawa held onto Smith way past his expiration date, and it has something to do with their new owner.
Michael Andlauer has only owned the Senators since September. Since then a lot more has gone wrong than has gone right. His honeymoon as an NHL majority owner was short but Andlauer’s arrival was one of the most optimistic developments for the Senators in recent memory.
Then, Shane Pinto was suspended for an NHL record 41 games. After that, Ottawa lost a first-round draft pick as a consequence of a voided Evgeni Dadonov trade back in 2022. That lost draft pick led to Andlauer firing his then-general manager, his first major personnel decision.
D.J. Smith was a small piece of desperately needed consistency between the old and new ownership and during the transition period. D.J. Smith might not have earned the layover he had before finally being fired but it was one less problem for Andlauer to worry about.
Andlauer had no control over the Pinto and Dadonov drama. Those were two situations he wasn’t a part of and inherited.
D.J. Smith was a bit of a different story. Andlauer did “inherit” D.J. Smith but he also could have fired him much like he did former general manager Pierre Dorion. Firing Smith would have added another thing to Andlauer’s already incredibly busy “to-do” list.
Dorion was directly tied to the lost draft pick, which justified his in-season firing. There was already too much going on with the Senators for Andlauer to add another bit of dysfunction.
Entering play this week, Ottawa found itself at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Maybe that was the point of no return for D.J. Smith? Interim head coach Jacques Martin was hired by the Senators as an advisor last month.
That might be the closest we get to getting an answer about when the beginning of the end began for Smith. The fact that franchise legend Daniel Alfredsson agreed to join the coaching staff made the change easier.
Don’t expect the Senators to make the playoffs. With how this season has gone, we have no idea what to expect at all from the Senators.
While this season began with the expectation that the rebuilding club would take a step forward, the rest of this season and next is again filled with questions.
Is Martin here for the long term or just a temporary placeholder? Is he grooming Alfredsson to be the next head coach in a move that would earn goodwill from the suffering fan base? It’s still too little too late for another lost season.