Well it appears the Ottawa Senators weren't finished making some major organizational changes even though the trade deadline had come and gone. Friday morning, Ottawa let head coach Guy Boucher know that his services would no longer be needed for the rest of this horrendous 2018/19 season. Senators then named Mark Crawford as interim bench boss for the remaining games.
Boucher had seen this Ottawa squad go through many trials and tribulations in his just short of 3 year tender as head coach. When Boucher first arrived in the nations capital, the team looked to have been figuring out pieces to the championship puzzle. Erik Karlsson was coming off a league leading 66 assist year, prospects like Mark Stone and Cody Ceci were looking to build from impressive campaigns as young up and comers in the league. The Sens even went out and got a playoff veteran D-man in Dion Phaneuf without sacrificing any major prospects or picks.
In Boucher’s first (and most successful) season, he was able to effectively change the game style of the Senators and produce a winning season. Boucher managed to bring the Sens from a lowly ranked 28th in the league for goals against the season prior, to a respectable 11th ranking (Ottawa saved 33 more goals).
Boucher and the 2016/17 Senators were good enough for second in the division and a first round playoff meeting with Boston. Ottawa was able to convincingly put away both the Bruins and Rangers in 6 games in the first two rounds. Eventually, the Sens would face heartbreak at the hands of eventual cup winning Penguins in game seven of the Eastern Conference final.
This would only be the start of heartbreaks for the Ottawa Senators, with each one snowballing to the next. First, the trade for Matt Duchene. After stumbling into the 2017/18 season, Ottawa made a splash in the trade market. It would cost them Kyle Turris to Nashville, more importantly, the Sens forked over a conditional 1st round pick (now the 2019 1st round pick) a 2019 3rd round pick AND a high touted prospect in Shane Bowers to the Avalanche (Duchene’s former club). This move would prove disastrous as the Sens would finish the season as one of the worst teams in the NHL with only 67 points (7th place in Atlantic).
The offseason held the seemingly never ending drama of Hoffman vs Karlsson: Battle of the wives. The off ice circus unfortunately forced Ottawa not only to trade away Hoffman, but send out longtime Sens hero, fan favourite and captain Erik Karlsson as well.
With a rebuild clearly on the way, the Sens had been doing all they could to save some face and have a rebuilding yet competitive roster. Without their own pick in this years draft the need to tear it all down became essential to future success. This season has seen the departure of Ryan Dzingel, and team points leader Mark Stone. Even Matt Duchene saw the end of his days in Ottawa as he was traded to Columbus (sparking the slew of trades from Ottawa).
So why fire Guy Boucher? In the middle of all the losing, all the player chaos and uncertainty. Well for me its simple... a fresh start. Ottawa seems determined to not make the same gambles and sacrifices they made in their “win now” mentality.
They want to build a winning culture again from within the organization. A culture that saw Karlsson spend his first 9 seasons with. A culture that had no public turmoil, and some of the most die hard, loyal fans; even while being the little brother of Ontario teams. Leaving the memory of Coach Boucher in the abysmal season that was the 2018/19 reinstates Ottawa’s desire to turn around the current standing of the organization. Rather than putting their players through even more organizational changes in the future, Senators personnel elected to group all of the tough decisions together and drastically impact the team while still in their current struggles.
Ottawa has now been able to contain some of the flames that their slow burning room has produced. They've brought in a quantity of draft picks for the future. Even though they likely gifted Jack Hughes to Colorado, those picks should bring in a new injection of youthful talent and provide the Senators with more opportunities for breakout players.
The Senators have also now given themselves ample amount of time to make the right coaching decision. Let's not forget this was the season of some big name coaches being shown the door. Names like Quenneville and Yeo are still without jobs and both bring experience and a hard working mentality to a young and relatively nameless Senators team. Definite huge strides in the right direction for the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunate it came at the sacrifice of Boucher, but sometimes you're just not the right “Guy” anymore.