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NHL Notebook: Jay Woodcroft among head coach candidates to watch for the Ottawa Senators
By Cam Lewis2 months ago
Since the Edmonton Oilers fired Jay Woodcroft back in November, three other teams have made changes behind the bench due to poor starts.
The St. Louis Blues fired Craig Berube, who led the team to their first Stanley Cup back in 2019, and the Minnesota Wild dismissed Dean Evason after a string of seven consecutive losses. Most recently, the Ottawa Senators sacked D.J. Smith, who finished his tenure with a 131-154-32 record and no playoff appearances.
The Sens, who sit dead last in the Eastern Conference with an 11-16-0 record, have now fired their head coach and general manager since new ownership took over the team back in the summer. President of Hockey Operations Steve Staios is filling in as the interim general manager and long-time NHL coach Jacques Martin was named interim coach earlier this week. The first priority for Staios is likely finding a general manager and then working with that individual to hire the team’s head coach.
Over at Daily Faceoff, Frank Seravalli listed a handful of names to watch for who the Senators might eventually name head coach. Among them is Jay Woodcroft, who crossed paths with Staois while the two were in Edmonton.
“The wound is still fresh for Woodcroft, who paid the price for the Edmonton Oilers’ awful start. Even as Edmonton has gotten going under Kris Knoblauch, there is still a sense lingering in Oil Country that getting rid of Woodcroft might have been an overreaction.Woodcroft, 47, won three playoff rounds with the Oilers and lasted but one full 82-game season behind the bench. If you take out this brutal start to the season which was like Murphy’s Law – everything that could go wrong, did – then Woodcroft had a .683 points percentage over his first two campaigns. There’s little doubt Woodcroft is a smart tactician, tireless worker and strong communicator.He also seems to have a personality that would mesh well with a more reserved Staios, whom he would’ve crossed paths with last season while Staios was an Oilers advisor. Woodcroft makes his permanent home base in Ontario cottage country, not terribly far from Ottawa, and coaches always seem to be better in their second go-around.”
Woodcroft came over from the San Jose Sharks to the Oilers back in 2015 as part of Todd McLellan’s staff. After three seasons on Edmonton’s bench as an assistant, Woodcroft was named head coach of the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors.
When the Oilers fired Dave Tippett during the 2021-22 season, Woodcroft was called up from Bakersfield and led the team to a significant turnaround. The team went 26-9-3 the rest of the way and reached the Western Conference Final for the first time since the ’06 run. In Woodcroft’s first and only full season as Edmonton’s head coach, the team went 50-23-9 but bowed out in the second round of the playoffs to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Given Woodcroft’s success with the Oilers, both in terms of developing players in the AHL and getting results in the NHL, it makes sense why a young team like the Senators would have him on their radar. Some other names who are said to be in the mix are Toronto Marlies head coach John Gruden, veteran coach Claude Julien, and former Senators Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Kelly.
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