Senators fire Boucher, name Crawford interim head coach

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It’s not just the players getting shipped out of Ottawa.

On Friday, the Senators made the decision to fire head coach Guy Boucher and replace him with assistant Marc Crawford for the remainder of the 2018-19 NHL season.

“I want to thank Guy for his three years of service. He is a good person and has been an excellent representative of the Senators. At this point, however, we need a different set of coaching and leadership skills to guide our team through this rebuild,” said general manager Pierre Dorion in a statement. “In the interim, Marc will bring a different perspective along with a wealth of head coaching experience.”

That’s a big reverse in course following Monday when Dorion said of Boucher, “Guy is our coach. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me on this one that I’ve probably made his job pretty difficult the last few weeks, and we’re going to support him.” Oh, and he told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun this week that a decision on the coaching staff would come at the end of the season. (This is what happens when you lose to the Oilers, apparently.)

Boucher was 94-108-26 in 288 regular season games behind the bench in Ottawa. The Senators made the playoffs only once during his short tenure when reached the 2017 Eastern Conference Final and came within an overtime goal in Game 7 of playing in the Stanley Cup Final. This season they are dead-last in the NHL with a 22-37-5 record and cannot even look forward to this year’s draft lottery since the Colorado Avalanche own their first-round pick, thanks to last season’s Matt Duchene trade.

Boucher — and Crawford, for that matter — was a lame duck coach as his contract expires after this season. The Senators are going full-on into this rebuild — the word “rebuilding” is featured in the press release’s headline — and anticipating the 2021-2025 period where owner Eugene Melnyk says he’ll finally spend to the salary cap ceiling. In what direction will they now go for their next bench boss?

In their press release announcing the change, the Senators outlined exactly what they’ll be looking for in their next head coach:

In tandem with an evaluation of our current coaching staff, we will conduct a search for a new head coach following the season. We will be looking for a coach who excels as:

• A teacher who will focus on the development and growth of each player on the team;

• A listener who encourages feedback from players and the coaching staff;

• A communicator who lets every team member know where they stand and what is expected;

• A tactician who brings structure and game planning that will enhance our rebuild.

This job opening has all the makings of a first-timer. Joel Quenneville or Alain Vigneault are not going to want to go into the situation the Senators currently face the next few years, even with a promising prospect cupboard. Also, Melnyk isn’t going to shell out big bucks for a big name coach.

Will the organization’s AHL head coach, Troy Mann, get a look? What about Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Marlies? His name has come up in the past year connected to various NHL openings. Another name that could be in the rumor mill is Dallas Eakins, now coaching in AHL San Diego, who may very well end up behind the Anaheim Ducks’ bench next season.

Crawford, who is the franchise’s eighth head coach since their 2007 Cup Final appearance, joined the Senators following Boucher’s hiring in 2016. He previously coached 18 years in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, and Dallas Stars. He won the Jack Adams Award in 1995 and the Stanley Cup in 1996.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.