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.

Senators bringing back Guy Boucher with changes in mind

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The Ottawa Senators’ plan is for next season is all about change. But there will not be any change for the man in charge behind the bench as general manager Pierre Dorion said on Tuesday during an interview with TSN 1200 that Guy Boucher — and his full staff — will return.

Dorion and Boucher met on Monday and the result of their chat means the head coach will work the final year of his deal. The decision makes sense since it wouldn’t be like owner Eugene Melnyk to allow a coach to get paid for a year and not be working for him.

“They came up with a game plan and we’re really happy with the direction the staff wants to go,” Dorion said.

The Senators finished with 31 fewer points this past season than 2016-17 when they made it to within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Things fell apart quickly, and a three-way deal that sent Kyle Turris to Nashville and Matt Duchene to Ottawa didn’t improved things. Once the season started to slip away, rumors surrounding Erik Karlsson’s future with the franchise bubbled over, but the captain stayed with the team through the trade deadline. This summer, however, could be a different story.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Back to the changes. During their meeting, the GM wanted a gameplan moving forward from Boucher, who will also take over duties running a bottom-five power play. What Dorion heard pleased him, and so the staff stays in place, but not before Dorion passed on a few specific things he’d like to see.

First, Dorion wants the head coach to play the kids more with Colin White, Logan Brown, and Thomas Chabot, among others, seeing the ice more right at the start of the season, rather than after playoff hopes have evaporated. The future is now for the Senators, so rather than treading water with highly-priced veterans, they need to develop those players at the NHL level and determine if they can cut it.

The other change Dorion wants is more practice time, something he mentioned at his end-of-season press conference.“Rest is a weapon. If I hear that one more time I’ll go crazy,” Dorion said in April. He’s going to get that wish after it making it very clear in his chat with Boucher.

“Our intentions, and they were discussed with the coaching staff right after the year, is that we’re a skating team,” he said. “We need to practice. I think speed was Guy’s mantra when he came on board, and I think we derived a bit from it last year and we need to skate hard in practice to play as hard and as fast as much as possible, and they understood that.”

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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.

Report: Hynes may be front-runner for Devils job (while Boucher’s out)

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The New Jersey Devils’ pursuit of a new head coach continues, and while they may once again come out and refute the latest reports, it sounds like we can cross off some names and promote another.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that John Hynes (coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) may be the current front-runner. Meanwhile, McKenzie notes that one can probably cross former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher (pictured) off the list of possible candidates, as it appears that he’ll continue to coach in Switzerland.

That last bit of news may be a bummer to some, as many found some entertainment in hypothesizing about the source of Boucher’s Bond villain-style scar. The guy also tended to make some humorously dramatic facial expressions, as you can see from this post’s main image.

(You could also make a joke about upping the use of the 1-3-1 trap in New Jersey, if you’re into especially nerdy hockey humor.)

Hynes certainly makes sense from a familiarity standpoint, as new Devils GM Ray Shero is quite familiar with him. Beyond that, he’s enjoyed quite a bit of success in the AHL and seemed to have a good chance to nab the Penguins’ gig last summer, at least according to betting odds.

By no means is this official, but McKenzie does discuss what would happen next if the Devils do make the decision:

Report: Phil Housley the lead candidate for Devils’ coaching vacancy

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Phil Housley could be the next head coach of the New Jersey Devils.

According to Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger, Housley, who is currently an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, has emerged as the front-runner for the coaching vacancy in New Jersey.

Chere reports GM Ray Shero has also interviewed former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher, Washington Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes.

The Devils reportedly interviewed Dan Bylsma before he took the Buffalo Sabres job.

During his playing days Housley spent part of the 1995-96 season with the Devils.

The 51-year-old’s coaching experience includes a gold medal while behind the bench of Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship.

Lecavalier likes Flyers system ‘better than staying on your heels’

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Vincent Lecavalier finally spoke with Philadelphia media and may have gotten a dig in at his former coach, Guy Boucher, while doing so.

While the Flyers finally announced Lecavalier’s deal, he was asked his thoughts about the Flyers’ up-tempo system under Peter Laviolette and if he liked that. It turns out he’s a big fan.

“I like that better than staying on your heels” Lecavalier said. “I think when you’re on your heels a lot more, you’re not in the game as much. You’re not as sharp and as quick. I think if you’re on your toes like the Flyers play, I think it makes you a better hockey player.”

When Boucher was let go in Tampa, it was believed there was tension there between himself and some of the veteran players and his defensive system may have been part of that.

If you’ll recall, it was against the Flyers when Boucher’s 1-3-1 forecheck system was challenged via stalling as the Flyers sat back in their own zone waiting to be pursued.

Perhaps all that staying back on their heels was why Tampa’s defense was so poor the last couple seasons and not the motley crew of blue liners that took part in it. Oh, right.