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NHL Notebook: Jacques Martin and Daniel Alfredsson take over behind bench as Sens fire coach, Elvis Merzļikins a change of scenery candidate, and more

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Cam Lewis
2 months ago
Mired in a four-game losing streak and quickly falling out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, the Ottawa Senators have made a change behind their bench.
Head coach D.J. Smith and assistant coach Davis Payne have been relieved of their duties and Jacques Martin will take over as the team’s interim head coach. Former Sens captain and all-time scoring leader Daniel Alfredsson will also join Martin’s staff as an assistant coach with an on-bench role.
D.J. Smith was hired by the Senators ahead of the 2019-20 season and ultimately put up a 131-154-32 record behind the bench in Ottawa. They missed the playoffs in each of Smith’s seasons as coach and haven’t been since their run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2017. The Sens have an 11-15-0 record on the season following their 6-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday and sit eighth in the Atlantic Division.
This will be Jacques Martin’s second tenure as the head coach of the Senators and his first coaching gig in the NHL since 2011-12. Now 71, Martin became the third head coach in team history during the 1995-96 season and put up a 341-255-96 record throughout nine seasons, highlighted by a Jack Adams Award in 1998-99. He’s Ottawa’s all-time leader in games coached (692), regular-season wins (341), playoff wins (31), and playoff games coached (69).
Joining Martin’s staff as an assistant coach will be Daniel Alfredsson, who was the team’s captain for much of his tenure behind the bench in Ottawa. Alfredsson ranks first in Sens history in goals (426) and points (1108) and second in games played (1178). He joined the Senators as a development coach back in the off-season and will be joining an NHL coaching staff for the first time.

Nov 29, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins skates during warmups before a game against the Montreal Canadiens at Nationwide Arena.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzļikins a change of scenery candidate

On Monday’s edition of The 32 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman noted that he’s heard that both the Columbus Blue Jackets and goaltender Elvis Merzļikins feel that it might be time for a change of scenery.
Merzļikins broke into the NHL during the 2019-20 season and posted a .923 save percentage over 33 regular-season games and then put up a .916 save percentage in 28 games in the shortened 2021 season. The Blue Jackets inked him to a five-year, $27 million contract extension in September ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Since signing that deal, Merzļikins has posted a .900 save percentage across 109 games, a considerable decline from how he performed over his first two seasons in the league. Some of that can likely be attributed to the team in front of him getting worse over the past few seasons, but Merzļikins has also spoken about the challenges of dealing with the tragic passing of teammate and close friend Matiss Kivlenieks in July of 2021.
“I’m gonna be honest, there was a couple games I was just going out there, and I didn’t care, because I wasn’t there,” Merzlikins said at the team’s year-end media availability following the colclusion of the 2021-22 season. “I was playing hockey. The guys [on the opposing team] are coming [at] me, and I’m thinking, ‘Gosh, last year he was here with me, and this year, there’s gonna be an empty seat at my table.’”
So far this season, the 29-year-old has a .909 save percentage across 20 games. He has three seasons left on his contract after this one at a cap hit of $5.4 million and also has a 10-team no-trade list.

Boston Bruins loan forward Matt Poitras to Team Canada for World Juniors

Team Canada’s World Juniors squad is getting a reinforcement, as the Boston Bruins are allowing rookie forward Matt Poitras to participate in this year’s tournament. The team left an open forward spot when its final roster was announced because of the possibility of adding a player from the NHL club.
The Bruins selected Poitras in the second round of the 2022 draft. After spending the 2022-23 season playing in the OHL, Poitras cracked the Bruins’ roster this fall and has five goals and 13 points across 27 games as a rookie.

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