Jacques Martin preparing for a final trip behind the Senators bench

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Who says you can’t go home again?

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Jacques Martin has never made his accomplishments about himself, but Saturday night at the Canadian Tire Centre his career will come full circle as he steps behind the bench in his hometown for one final time in the 1,349th game as National Hockey League bench boss.

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In his second stint with the Senators after taking over as the interim coach when D.J. Smith was fired on Dec. 18, the 71-year-old Martin has enjoyed his return to Ottawa and, with three games left in the season, it’s fitting he’ll face the Montreal Canadiens in this one.

Martin was the coach of the Habs for three years from 2009-12 and was there when the club went the Eastern Conference final in 2010 with Jaroslav Halak in net.

A native of nearby St. Pascal, Ont., Martin is the winningest coach in franchise history with 365 victories in 745 career games with Ottawa. Most of those came during his first eight years from 1996-2004, but the club is 24-25-4 since he took over and has taken steps in the right direction.

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He also has made stops in St. Louis and Florida as head coach while winning two Stanley Cup rings as an assistant with Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hired to take over the Senators in Jan. 1996, Martin left his post as an assistant in Colorado and the Avalanche won the Cup that spring.

“Ottawa has been one of the places I’ve enjoyed the most,” Martin said in a telephone interview with Postmedia on Friday. “Basically, it was here and Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, we won two (Stanley) Cups and we had a lot of success, but I also had a lot of success in Ottawa.

“I also felt bad that we didn’t win a Cup with the group that we had. It’s special (to be back), but at the same time you know me, I always preach about the team. This has to be about the team. What’s important is that I’m hoping tomorrow we play our best game at home tomorrow in front of our fans.

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“That’s what they deserve. We’ve got to play hard and we’ve got to play a simple game. Win or lose, it’s about the process and how invested you are in the game.”

When the final buzzer sounds Tuesday at the TD Garden against the Boston Bruins, Martin is expected to resume his role as a senior advisor to the coaching staff.

He’ll work with owner Michael Andlauer, Steve Staios, the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager, along with senior vice-president Dave Poulin and associate GM Ryan Bowness in the search for a full-time head coach to lead this team into next season.

“Hopefully I’ll stay in the organization and try to help them get to where we want to get to and that’s to win a Cup” Martin said. “I’ve always said that I’ve always been a team-first guy. When I look at back when I coached this team the first time, we had some great scouts that got us some great players.

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“As coaches, it was pleasure to mold those young men, to develop and to work with them and bring them to an elite level. Hopefully, the same process and same steps are going to happen with this organization and with this team.”

Martin has worked hard with former captain Daniel Alfredsson to try to get the core players here to understand that, if they want to get this team to the next level, then some things have to change. The young players need to have the same commitment to defence as they do to offence.

That’s not going to happen with the flick of a switch.

Martin likes the core led by captain Brady Tkachuk along with Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Shane Pinto, Jake Sanderson, Ridly Greig and alternate captain Thomas Chabot.

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“The sky’s the limit (for this group), but there’s some work to be done. It’s a process,” Martin said. “Look at a team like Vancouver because they’re a good example. They’ve struggled and they hadn’t made the playoffs, but they brought in a new nucleus and they turned the page this year. They’ve played very well as a team.

“Do we have all the same components as Vancouver? I think there’s some work to be done before you get there, but I think it’s important that you’ve got some of the key parts in place here. Moving forward, as an organization, I think we’ll do a really good evaluation of what they need.

“We’ll try to proceed to try to acquire the kind of people that you need to be successful.”

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Martin will leave the bench one final time in Boston with his head held high.

“We’ve laid some foundation and they have a better understanding what’s required to have success,” Martin said. “There’s an understanding that it’s not always pleasant and there’s a price to pay to win. There’s sacrifices that you have to make to win.

“You look at the teams that win Cups and how many shots they block. It’s not easy to block shots and that’s just one example. A successful team is 20 people that need to embrace the role that they have and embrace what they bring to the team.”


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