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.

Report: Auston Matthews signs in Swiss league

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On Saturday a report in The Hockey News had 2016 NHL Draft prospect Auston Matthews considering offers to play in Europe next season.

According to swisshockeynews.ch, Matthews has signed with the ZSC Lions.

The Everett Silvertips own Matthews’ Western Hockey League rights and several NCAA schools have been pursuing the 17-year-old.

Sportsnet’s Damien Cox reports Matthews could earn in the neighborhood of $500,000 playing in Europe. The Scottsdale, Arizona native would still be eligible to play for the U.S. at the World Junior Hockey Championship and potentially next year’s World Hockey Championship.

Matthews appeared in 24 games with the U.S. National Under-18 Team this season scoring 20 goals and 48 points.

Former NHL head coach Marc Crawford is currently the coach of Zurich and the roster features former NHLers Henrik Tallinder, Ryan Keller, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Dan Fritsche, Robert Nilsson and Ryan Shannon.

Video: Ducks’ Ryan Kesler’s hilarious Ice Bucket Challenge

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Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler got into the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this week.

Though it doesn’t have the production value of say Paul Bissonnette, it certainly is something.

Take a look:

After dropping his shorts to reveal his skin-tight bathing suit, Kesler proceeds to ride one of his kid’s toy cars out to the driveway where a pick up truck dumps the water on Kesler and a friend.

The former Canuck also nominates his three former coaches Marc Crawford, Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella. Noticeably absent from those he called out is his new coach Bruce Boudreau.

According to a release by the ALS Association, the organization has received $94.3 million in donations between July 29 and Aug. 27. By comparison, during the same time period in 2013 it received $2.7 million in donations.

Related: Video: Luongo’s amusing Ice Bucket Challenge

Pick of the litter: Panthers hire Gerard Gallant as coach

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The Florida Panthers have found their man to lead the team.

The team announced they’ve hired Gerard Gallant to be the new head coach. He was an assistant coach for Michel Therrien with the Montreal Canadiens the past two seasons and is a former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach.

Panthers GM Dale Tallon had glowing words for Gallant in the team’s press release.

“We are pleased to welcome Gerard as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers,” said Tallon. “He is an individual with tremendous character, integrity and a strong passion for the game and has experience as an NHL head coach. Gerard is an excellent teacher and motivator who possesses the leadership qualities and hockey knowledge that are necessary to lead our team.”

The Panthers chose Gallant out of a field of hopefuls that included recent Carolina Hurricanes hire Bill Peters, former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, and former Stanley Cup winner Marc Crawford among others. Crawford just verbally agreed to return to his job in Switzerland.

Gallant has a lot of experience behind the bench as both an assistant and a head coach.

He worked as an assistant for three seasons in Columbus before ascending to the top job for parts of three more seasons. He’s also been an assistant with the New York Islanders as well as the Habs.

More importantly for the current Panthers roster, he was head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL and led them to back-to-back Memorial Cup titles. His best player on those teams? Panthers young stud forward Jonathan Huberdeau.

Gallant has a very young roster to work with in Florida headed up by Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Erik Gudbranson. He’ll have his hands full in getting this green team together and trying to get back to the playoffs.

The team will formally introduce Gallant at a press conference on Monday.

Crawford bows out of NHL job race, returns to Switzerland

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It looks like former NHL coach Marc Crawford won’t be coming back to North America.

The former Avalanche, Kings, Canucks, and Stars coach has verbally agreed to return to the ZSC Lions in the Swiss National League according to the team’s Twitter feed.

Crawford had been in the running for the head coaching jobs with both the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins. But with the Panthers looking at Gerard Gallant and the Penguins moving on from Willie Desjardins and Bill Peters to other candidates, he’s not waiting around to see what they decide.

Crawford coached ZSC to the championship as well as the best record in the Swiss League. ZSC finished 20 points ahead of second place HC Gotteron and beat Kloten for the title. That’s probably more than you’ve ever read about the Swiss League.

Crawford won the Stanley Cup as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and won the Jack Adams Award in 1995.