Ottawa Senators coach Jacques Martin tries to keep cool in worst days

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Every now and then, you hear a story about a pissed-off coach who has lost his temper in the dressing room – screaming out blistering F-bombs, tossing a phone, kicking a garbage can, throwing chairs – trying to get a message across to the team’s players.

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The Ottawa Senators have given coach Jacques Martin plenty of reason to be angry.

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Bad teams, you can deal with, maybe understand. But when a team underachieves, like the Senators have too often this season, that can be the tipping point for a coach.

“There are definitely frustrations that build,” said Martin Friday morning, in advance of his team’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. “But you have to manage that, you have to adjust to your team. As a coach, you’re going to lose it sometimes. But it can’t be a common thing.

“I’m pretty mild outside, but I can be emotional and different inside with the group. I’ve always prided myself on resolving issues within the dressing room.  Sometimes, you have to read your group. You have to know their limitations.

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“I don’t think I’ve changed that much. I’ve got more experience now. But I’ve always been fairly patient. In some cases, when I look back, I’ve been too patient with certain players at times.”

Asked if he’s blown a gasket, Martin said: “I did in my early days. That doesn’t work anymore. That doesn’t mean you can’t be hard on people. I’ll give you the perfect example: (Florida Panthers head coach) Paul Maurice, last year. His team was coming, coming after Christmas. He blew a gasket in a game (in late March) in Toronto, he lost it on the bench. That was probably the final step in getting his team ready for the playoffs.”

Martin’s days with the Senators go back to 1996, when he was hired as the team’s third head coach. Gone from Ottawa after the 2003-04 season, he went on to head coaching roles with the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens.

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Martin took over head coaching duties from D.J. Smith in mid-December; his first game was in Arizona.

Asked about where this team has to go in order to step ahead, Martin said: “This team is a lot better than the team I took when I got here the first time. You have to establish a work ethic that gives you a chance to compete every night and you have to establish a structure that gives you that chance.

“I’ve really put the focus on short term, one game at a time. “We’ve evolved quite a bit; our mindset has changed quite a bit. We play more of a 60-minute game. I’m realistic. I know how difficult it is to make points in the National Hockey League. You can have a great 10-game segment and sometimes you only make up one or two points, especially when you have a lot of teams ahead of you.”

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The Coyotes didn’t win a game all of February and went into Friday night’s game in Ottawa 0-12-2 in their past 14 games; they hadn’t won since Jan. 22 (5-2 over Pittsburgh). For context on how historically bad the Coyotes have been, it was tied for the second-worst winless streak in the NHL’s salary cap era (the 2020-21 Buffalo Sabres went 18 games between victories). The 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets hold the all-time record, with 30 games without a win. Said Martin: “I watched their last two games and they played pretty well. Arizona controlled the play and should have won (against Montreal). (Thursday), they were all over the Leafs in the second half of the game. They hit a crossbar. They play hard, they’re well structured, well disciplined.”

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Defenceman Jakob Chychrun, who was with the Coyotes from 2016-23, was asked about the tattoo of a cactus he got on a finger while he played in Arizona. Said Chychrun:”One of my best buddies was visiting me. He wanted to get a tattoo with me. I’m not a huge tattoo guy. Christmas is my favourite time of year, they would light up the big cactus in my front yard. I always thought that looked really cool and I had a picture on my phone. I thought I could get the outline of the cactus (as a tattoo). (My friend) went first. He got a big one on his leg, I got a little one on my finger.”

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The odds of the Senators winning the Stanley Cup, which started the year at 40/1 on BetOnline, have sunk to 250/1; that seems generous. The Montreal Canadiens are at 500/1, while the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks have been taken off the board … Defenceman Artem Zub, who missed three games with a “lower-body” injury, returned to the Senators’ lineup Friday … Centre Tim Stutzle and defenceman Thomas Chabot, who didn’t practise Thursday, were also back … There was no further update in the status of Josh Norris, who left Tuesday’s 4-1 loss in Nashville with an “upper-body” injury. Norris was knocked into the net on a hit by Cole Smith and appeared to be favouring his left shoulder, which he had surgery on a year ago. Martin said only the centre would be out for “an extended period of time.” … Goalie Joonas Korpisalo started Friday’s game. Asked why, Martin said: “His record against that team. Analytics are a big thing now; as a coach, you have to evolve and look at those things. We have back-to-back games, we’ll go with (Anton) Forsberg (Saturday) in Philly.”

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