Ottawa Senators have company in their search for a new head coach

The landscape has changed since the Senators fired coach D.J. Smith.

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Hurry up and wait.

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As the final horn sounded on the Ottawa Senators’ season with a 3-1 over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night at the TD Garden, the questions started right away on what changes will be made in the off-season.

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The most significant new face will be behind the bench after interim head coach Jacques Martin wrapped up his second stint with the club by posting a 26-26-4 record in 56 games after taking over from D.J. Smith on Dec. 18 before a game in Arizona.

Owner Michael Andlauer, Steve Staios, the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager, senior VP Dave Poulin and associate GM Ryan Bowness will ramp up their search for a head coach in the coming days, but they’ll also wait to see what happens in the playoffs.

Staios told TSN’s Jon Abbott on Tuesday in Boston the organization has had regular discussions regarding a coach since Martin took over.

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“You often get asked about the process and if it’s started,” Staios said. “It’s an ongoing thing, as I think you can understand. There’s certain people that we look at that check some of the boxes for us.

“But I think there’s a need for some patience and time just to get to a level where we know all the candidates that may be available for us is only the right thing to do. It’s been our approach all along, where we’ve identified areas where we want to make sure we’re making the right decision.

“(They’re) not jumping into anything too early, but I do think we’ve started down that path and that will continue to heat up.”

The landscape has changed since the Senators fired Smith and the club isn’t alone in its search for a head coach. There will be competition in the marketplace as the off-season gets underway.

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The Buffalo Sabres are also in the market for a new coach after firing Don Granato
The Buffalo Sabres are also in the market for a new coach after firing Don Granato on Tuesday. Photo by Lynne Sladky /AP

The Buffalo Sabres sent coach Don Granato packing Tuesday after missing the playoffs for the 13th straight spring. General manager Kevyn Adams made it clear he wants a coach with NHL experience, so he’ll be looking at some of the same names as Staios and the Senators.

Former St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube, Todd McLellan, fired by the Los Angeles Kings in February, and former Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason will all be on the Sabres’ list. There is some talk Buffalo is also considering bringing back Lindy Ruff, who was fired by the New Jersey Devils in March.

St. Louis coach Drew Bannister and New Jersey’s Travis Green have yet to have the interim tags removed. The expectation is they will, but you never know until it’s made official. The Kings have made the playoffs under interim coach Jim Hiller so he’s not going anywhere.

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Eliminated from the playoffs Tuesday night, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins will head home early for the second straight spring. There have been questions surrounding the future of coach Mike Sullivan because his three-year, $16.5-million extension kicks in July 1.

If Sullivan were to come available, and many doubt that’s even a possibility, Martin would urge Staios to pick up the phone. They spent several years together with the Penguins, won back-to-back Stanley Cups and Martin is always quick to praise Sullivan’s approach.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan
There have been questions surrounding the future of Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan because his three-year, $16.5-million extension kicks in July 1, writes Bruce Garrioch. Photo by Matt Freed /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Postmedia has reported McLellan, Evason and Berube are on a list of candidates for the Senators along with John Gruden, the head coach of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, and Brad Shaw, the associate coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.

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The belief is the Senators would like to talk to Gruden and have been waiting because they won’t get permission to speak to him from the Maple Leafs until Toronto’s season ends. The belief is even if he’s not the head coach, Gruden will certainly be on the club’s staff next season.

A former Senators defenceman, Gruden, 53, worked for Andlauer and Staios for two seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs. The club won the J. Ross Robertson Cup (league playoff champions) in 2017-18 after going 43-18-7 in the regular season.

Another name brought to our attention Tuesday is Todd Nelson, the coach of the Washington Captials’ AHL affiliate in Hershey. He’s won two league titles in his minor-league career, including one with Hershey last spring, and had a brief stint as an interim head coach with the Edmonton Oilers.

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Nelson, 54, who has been an assistant with Atlanta, Edmonton and Dallas during his career, picked up his 400th career AHL win last month.

We’ll get more clarity from Staios on Friday on how the search for a coach will transpire and what will happen with the current staff. Martin will move back into an advisory role while assistant Daniel Alfredsson stated publicly he’ll determine his next move after taking some to reflect.

Associate coach Jack Capuano, who has spent five years in the organization, is likely headed elsewhere. His contract is up, while determinations have to be made on the futures of assistant Ben Sexton, goalie coach Justin Peters and video coach Mike King.

It’s a long off-season for the Senators, but time is of the essence in the search for a new coach.

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