Potential assistant coaches coveted by the Ottawa Senators this offseason

Now that the Ottawa Senators have hired their head coach in Travis Green, it's time to talk about who will round out his coaching staff.
Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators / Jeff Vinnick/GettyImages

Recently, I discussed which Ottawa coaches should begin looking for a new job. Thus, it must sense to follow up with a discussion regarding which coaches could joing the Senators for the 2024-25 season. I'll start by speaking about the glaringly obvious names that are spoken about on a pretty regular basis by most prominent hockey pundits, and going down to a few lesser likely options that I think should be considered as well.

Let's start with someone who has a history of coaching with Green, Nolan Baumgartner. Baumgartner was a former professional player, having stints with numerous NHL and AHL teams. Once he hung up the skates with the Chicago Wolves, he spent one time as an assistant coach before being hired by Green to be one of his assistants with the Utica Comets.

Baumgartner would then join Green when he would be promoted to the Comet's NHL sister club, the Vancouver Canucks, where he would be in charge of defense and the penalty kill. After Green's coaching staff was let go, Baumgartner would make his way to the Manitoba Moose as an assistant coach for the last two years as well as serving as head coach for Team Canada at the 2021 World Juniors. Baumgartner is a name that is being mentioned by pretty much every hockey pundit as being considered for a position with the Ottawa Senators. 

The next name that's being mentioned a bunch is John Gruden. Gruden is currently serving as the head coach of the AHL's Toronto Marlies. His Marlies were eliminated by the Belleville Senators in the playoffs this season and he has been linked to the Ottawa Senators ever since DJ Smith was let go back in December.

Many thought Gruden was a front-runner for the head coaching spot, that was awarded to Green, but now it's assumed that he's going to join the Sens as an assistant. Gruden has a history with GM Steve Staios and owner Michael Andlauer dating to the OHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Gruden served as head coach of that organization for two seasons, winning the OHL in 2018.

He was then hired by the New York Islanders to be part of Barry Trotz' coaching staff. The nod of approval from Barry Trotz is enough for me to be willing to give this guy a shot. Since his time with the Islanders, he also spent a year as an assistant coach in Boston in 2022-23. The year, Boston tied the winning record in the regular season. I wasn't fond of the idea of hiring Gruden as head coach of the Senators, as he has zero NHL head coaching experience, but I'd be extremely excited if he was hired as an assistant.

Another name that's been mentioned by a few individuals, most notably Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, is Jay McKee. McKee is the current head coach of the Brantford Bulldogs, the OHL team that Michael Andlauer owns. Now, I wouldnt necessarily say that McKee is a bad option by any means, and he's probably going to be an NHL head coach later on in his coaching career, he is still very new to the coaching scene and the highest league he's coached in is the OHL.

It's probably more likely that McKee joins the AHL's Belleville Senators in some sort of capacity. Wether that be as an assistant to David Bell, or even succeeding David Bell, that's left to be seen. It would be dissapointing to see Bell go as he has done a pretty good job, but there may be a chance he's getting looks already for other jobs.

An unlikely name that I wanted to mention was Marc Savard. Savard spent the last season as an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames before mutually parting ways with the organization just a few days ago. If he were interested at all in joining the Sens, I would be all over him if I were Steve Staios and Travis Green. He would be the ideal powerplay and forwards coach with his elite offensive schemes. However, it's much more likely that he will join the Toronto Maple Leafs as they also look to revamp their coaching staff.

While I finish speaking about Savard, I'd like to bring attention to another offensive tactician, Alex Tanguay. Tanguay is an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings and led the team's powerplay to be the 9th best in the NHL last season. He probably isn't available, in all honesty, but there have been rumors of some sort of coaching change in Detroit.

Their head coach, Derek Lalone, is in the final year of his current contract and has not yet been renewed for an extension. While Steve Yzerman is known to be quite patient with coaches, I could see one assistant potentially leave the organization this offseason in order to shake things up. If Tanguay is at all available, teams will be lining up for his services and the Ottawa Senators should be one of those teams.

What's missing in this compilation is an experienced NHL head coach. Historically speaking, the Sens (and many other NHL teams) tend to hire at least one former NHL head coach as an assistant. This was the case when Jack Capuano was hired alongside DJ Smith, as well as when Marc Crawford was hired with Guy Boucher. I'll list a few examples leaguewide. Detroit currently has Bob Boughner, who has a bunch of head coaching experience.

The Edmonton Oilers have had Glen Gulutzan for a number of years. The LA Kings hired former Sens head coach DJ Smith not long after Todd McLellan was fired. The Tampa Bay Lightning employ former Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill. The Toronto Maple Leafs currently have former Sens head coach Guy Boucher (although this may change as the Leafs revamp their staff).

Finally, Vancouver has Mike Yeo. It's not a requirement by any means to have a seasoned veteran as an assistant, it would just be a nice bonus. The first name that comes to mind is none other than Claude Julien. Julien expressed interestin the head coaching role in Ottawa, as he lives in the area, and it would be the "ideal" situation for him. Whether or not he would feel the same in an assistant's role, however, remains to be seen. Julien is currently the 16th-winningest coach in NHL history and has a cup with the Boston Bruins dating back to 2011.

I will also bring up the name Benoit Groulx. Groulx was most recently the head coach of the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. He served in that role from 2017 to the end of the 2022-23 season before moving into a scouting role for the most recent season. Before his stint in the AHL, he was the longtime coach of the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL and was regarded as a top coaching prospect for quite some time.

He's also been the head coach of the Rochester Americans in the past. He was linked to the Ottawa Senators back in January, but ultimately he has recently been hired to coach Traktor of the KHL. Unfortunately this means he won't get a spot with Ottawa, or anywhere else in the NHL for atleast the next season, I felt he should be mentionned nonetheless because I truly believe he will be a very good head coach in the NHL one day, and that probably starts with an assistant job beforehand.

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At the end of the day, there are numerous options to be considered for a spot as an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators, and I'm very excited to see who ends up being the likely candidate. Do the Sens opt to keep one or more of the current staff? Do they decide to clean house and start from scratch? The possibilities are endless. I believe that Steve Staios will end up hiring one individual, which will probably be John Gruden. Green will then get to fill out the rest of his staff, probably bringing in the likes of Nolan Baumgartner, and others.