While he may not be at fault for the majority of the team’s problems, the Ottawa Senators are going to need to make a change at head coach soon.
When it comes to the Ottawa Senators, a majority of their problems rest above the head coach.
Incompetent management and appalling ownership have led the Sens to their current predicament, as any fan will tell you. But the team has gone 47-71-16 since the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, and with the Senators in last place it would appear that Guy Boucher’s days in the nation’s capital are numbered.
With this in mind it would be safe to search the market to find the next head coach of the Ottawa Senators, one who will help guide the young players through a lengthy rebuild.
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Marlies Head Coach
With the Marlies since 2015, Keefe has amassed a record of 150-63-11-4 in his first three seasons with the club (Not including a 24-16-3-3 record this year). He led the Marlies to their first Calder Cup in 2018 and at just 39-years old he would become one of the youngest head coaches in the NHL if the Sens could poach him from Toronto.
Keefe is in an organization where Mike Babcock is the head coach for the present and foreseeable future, meaning Keefe wouldn’t be behind the Leafs’ bench until several years from now. The Sens should jump on the opportunity to bring him to Ottawa and keep him from joining another team in need of a coach.
Jeff Jackson, University of Notre Dame Head Coach
Moving to the collegiate realm, Jackson has been head coach of the Fighting Irish since 2005 and a figure in college hockey since 1990.
He won two national championships as coach of Lake Superior State (1992, 1994), compiling a 182-52-25 record. In South Bend he has led the Irish to four Frozen Four appearances (2008, 2011, 2017, 2018) and through the 2018 season has a record of 293–176–54. Jackson is also a three-time CCHA Coach of the Year (1991, 2007, 2011).
Jackson, with his experience guiding young players, would be a solid choice as the Sens will be bringing in youth to build the core for the future. Having a voice like Jackson’s in their ear as they adapt to the NHL would help with their development.
Joel Quenneville, Three-Time Stanley Cup Winner
Hear me out.
This one is the least likely to happen, and while Quenneville coming in would be a breath of fresh air I don’t believe it’s the direction the organization should be going in. The Sens should be looking for younger coaches or first timers to the NHL; Quenneville doesn’t fit either of those molds.
But put yourself in Eugene Melnyk’s shoes. You are the owner of a struggling team, both on the ice and financially, and fans have begun to stop buying tickets. What’s a great way to signal change, create buzz amongst the fan base and keep players from leaving the team? Putting a three-time Stanley Cup winner behind the bench.
If the cheap skate can fork out enough money for Quenneville, he may be able to keep the ship from sinking on the ice and on the income statement (It also helps that Quenneville can still coach at the NHL level, so there that is).
Benoit Groulx, Syracuse Crunch Head Coach
Another AHL coach who has yet to try his hand in the NHL, Groulx has been head coach of the Crunch since 2016 and has done quite well. In his first two seasons the team went 84-46-10-12, making the playoffs both times (With a Calder Cup Final appearance in 2017 to boot). The Crunch seem groomed for another playoff run this year with a 27-13-2-1 record so far.
At 51, Groulx has a few more years of experience than Keefe, which he can bring to the team and help develop the young talent the Sens have and will continue to stockpile over the next few years.
Jon Cooper could be on the hot seat for multiple playoff failures with the Lightning, so Groulx may find himself in the NHL faster than Keefe would. It would be best if the Sens locked him up before management can make changes in Tampa.
Let’s Hold Out Hope
Will the Ottawa Senators hire any of these men? We don’t know. The team has yet to make any major moves, whether it be trades or firings, and we will not know the kind of vision the team has for the future until a new management group is brought in. But these four potential coaches each bring a different style and a winning mentality, which is exactly what the Senators will need going forward.