The magic from the Sweden road trip seems to have evaporated for the Ottawa Senators, who have lost all their games since coming back. It started with a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Nov. 24 and was followed by a crushing 5-0 loss to a defensively tight Florida Panthers team on Nov. 27. When we thought it couldn’t get worse, the Senators lost 4-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night (Dec. 1) despite having a two-goal lead in the game.
A lot of changes were made in the offseason in hopes of finally breaking their postseason drought. On paper, this should be the best Senators roster they’ve had since their memorable 2017 playoff run. But things still aren’t working, and it’s becoming clear that something has to change. Fingers are being pointed towards head coach DJ Smith to be next on the chopping block despite his players openly defending him.
Now that December has arrived, a coaching change should be imminent. And I believe that the Senators should consider bringing in Patrick Roy to replace Smith, if he has interest in coaching in the NHL again.
The Current Situation
Despite having a favourable schedule to start the season, the Senators find themselves last in their conference and third worst in the league with an 8-10-0 record. On top of that, they will play a total of 30 games in December and January combined, so it won’t be getting any easier for them. This is the time to show the resilience and character they seem to be losing more and more of as the games go by.
Smith has been the head coach for over four years now, mostly during the time of their rebuild. Credit to him, he’s done a good job developing the young players and helping them carve out their path in the league. A lot of young stars such as Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle have found their footing under him, which is likely why they have respect and enjoy playing for him.
But the future is now, and now is not the time for a coach that strictly develops the players. The Senators need a coach that can bring them to the next level in the standings. If the Senators want to replace Smith, they need to find a head coach who is known for their passion and character. They need a head coach that will hold the players 一 and themselves 一 accountable and not tolerate the losing anymore. In other words, I think they need Roy.
The Case for Roy
The Quebec City native has a decorated resume both as a player and as a head coach in the realm of hockey. As a player, some may remember him for his infamous trade request from the Montreal Canadiens. Following a deflating 11-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on this day in 1995, Roy let former president Ronald Corey know that he had played his last game for the team after he was left in net for 10 of the goals. But other than that, most remember him as a legendary Hall of Famer and four-time Stanley Cup champion. The three-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner demonstrated that he would do anything to win games for his team. In other words, he had character 一 a trait he has not lost.
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His resume translates well as a head coach. Most recently, he won the Memorial Cup championship as the head coach of the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), which he’s coached for 13 seasons. He’s since departed the bench, which maybe means a return as head coach in the NHL. Winning the Stanley Cup as head coach would be a nice cherry on the sundae for him.
In his past NHL stint, he took over a Colorado Avalanche team that looked nothing like it does today. Not only did he develop many of the stars we see today, such as Mikko Rantanen and Nathan Mackinnon, but he also brought them back to the playoffs the same season he took over. Their 52-22-8 record in the 2014-15 NHL season helped earn him a Jack Adams Award as the league’s best head coach. It’s true that his departure after only three seasons was abrupt and could make some teams reluctant to hire him again, but he’s said himself that he learned a lot from that experience and understands what it entails to be the head coach of a team.
Finally, a small factor many fans forget to consider is the cultural impact his hiring would have on the Senators. He would be a good candidate to hire if the team wants to draw in more fans from the Gatineau region and if they want to accommodate a city known for its bilingual population. Bringing in a name like Roy would check many of these boxes, as he’s beloved in Quebec and speaks both languages. But the most important part, of course, is that the team needs a guy that will help get them some wins.
The Senators Players
Throughout this article, I’ve mostly talked about coaches and neglected the party we need to think about the most, which is the Senators players. It’s obvious that they want to win and have the talent to do so. But their recent play shows that they need some more guidance and structure. Most notably, their defensive zone play is lackluster, and they seem to be scrambling more than they should, which doesn’t help when they want to generate offence.
The team has proven to have a character and needs a head coach that will showcase that. While Smith has helped the team grow a lot in the past few years, I think that it’s time for a change now.