Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

So ends a disappointing tenure for Smith, who ends his first NHL head-coaching role after parts of five seasons and 317 games behind the Ottawa bench. That made him one of the longest-tenured bench bosses in the league before today’s news.

Ottawa brought on Smith in 2019 after parting ways with Guy Boucher just two seasons after the latter led them to double overtime in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. While some of his tenure was during a designed rebuild, Smith’s record isn’t pretty – 131-154-32, or a .464 points percentage, never guiding the Senators to a division finish higher than sixth place. Despite investing in acquiring talent over the past few summers, the team hasn’t shown any signs of life of becoming a playoff contender under Smith.

The 46-year-old had spent four seasons as an assistant coach for the Maple Leafs before taking the job in Ottawa. It seems likely an assistant role is what’s next for Smith if he wants to stay behind an NHL bench. He becomes the fourth head coach to be fired in-season, joining the Blues’ Craig Berube, the Wild’s Dean Evason, and the Oilers’ Jay Woodcroft.

Payne, 53, joined the Senators’ bench as an assistant along with Smith in 2019. Briefly the head coach of the Blues in the early 2010s, Payne lifted the Stanley Cup in 2014 while serving as an assistant with the Kings.

It’s both nostalgic and peculiar to see the Senators pivot back to Martin behind the bench, who previously served as their head coach from 1996 to 2004 and remains the franchise’s all-time leader in games coached. The 71-year-old last served behind an NHL bench in 2020-21 as an assistant with the Rangers and was last a head coach over a decade ago with the Canadiens in 2011-12. He rejoined the Senators organization earlier this month in a senior advisor role after holding the same position with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs since 2022.

When Martin was behind the bench last in Ottawa, its leading scorer was a 25-year-old Marián Hossa. Just behind him was Alfredsson, the franchise’s all-time leader in points, who will now work closely with his longtime bench boss to help quickly turn their season around.

The Senators are getting significant experience in Martin, who’s coached nearly 1,300 NHL games for the Senators, Canadiens, Blues, and Panthers. Throughout his nine seasons in Ottawa, Martin only missed the playoffs once in his first year behind the bench, guiding them to their first sustained period of success after they were brought into the league in the 1992-93 season.

This is the 51-year-old Alfredsson’s first chance to show what he can do behind an NHL bench. The team hired Alfredsson earlier this season as a development coach after Michael Andlauer assumed ownership of the team, marking his first time being employed by the Senators since serving as an advisor between 2015 and 2017. Ottawa’s captain from 1999 to 2013 remains their all-time leader in goals (426), assists (682) and points (1,108).

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