Ottawa's Dave Cameron was the first NHL coach fired after the season, so who's next?
One coach has been fired in the wake of a disappointing season. And now everyone is waiting to see if, or when, another will follow.
The Ottawa Senators got the carousel spinning on Tuesday morning by firing Dave Cameron. It's a move that surprised no one after new GM Pierre Dorion froze his coaching staff out of the team's exit interviews.
But then, Cameron was essentially a dead man walking ever since his decision making was called into question by team owner Eugene Melnyk, who also promised "key changes" were coming during a March tirade. And when GM Bryan Murray stepped aside for Dorion over the weekend, it was inevitable that the new man in charge would want to make his own hire.
That's why it's not the decision, but the timing, that important.
By clearing the decks now, Dorion frees himself to make his next move. If a coach that he likes happens to become available, he'll be ready to pounce.
And while he may have to make a different choice down the road, it's pretty obvious which coach he's waiting on.
The Bruins have yet to make an announcement regarding the future of Claude Julien, but the fact that he hasn't been made available to the media following Saturday's season-ending 6-1 loss to the Sens is telling.
If he is let go—and what a devastating mistake that would be by Boston management—he'd be the ideal candidate for the Senators. Julien grew up in nearby Orleans, Ontario and, as Senators beat writer Don Brennan noted, was given his first coaching with the Ottawa Jr. Senators of the Central Junior Hockey League back by Dorion back in 1993.
Aside from that personal connection, he's also one of the finest coaches working in the game today. Good enough to set a Bruins franchise record for career wins earlier this season. Good enough to be a regular part of Team Canada's staff, including for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
As a free agent, Julien would have his choice of jobs on the market. Maybe the Sens would appeal to him. Maybe not. But the opportunity will be there if he happens to be in a position to accept it.
But he might not be the only big-name coach they're eyeing. Both Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks are under pressure to guide their teams deep into the postseason. An early exit could see one or both of them sent packing.
Either man would bring the sort of high-level experience the Sens will want after striking out with three consecutive rookie coaches. And for all the good that Murray did as the team's GM, those failures are on him. From the time he himself stepped away from the job in 2007, he hired four different men to guide his team. Craig Hartsburg, his only experienced hire, lasted just 48 games. Cory Clouston managed 198. Paul MacLean was the most successful of the bunch, sticking around for 238 games and winning the 2013 Jack Adams Award before being replaced by Cameron, who stayed all of 138 games.
Between them, they managed one playoff round win along with four postseason DNQs.
That's not close to good enough. And it emphasizes that, no matter what else Dorion does this summer, he can't screw up this hire.
There's already some talk that Dorion may have made a mistake in firing one of Cameron's assistants. Goalie coach Rick Wamsley, who was fired along with Andre Tourigny, is well regarded around the league as someone capable of bringing out the best in his charges.
Wamsley was seen as one of the main reasons the Sens were able to sign college free agent netminder Matt O'Connor last spring and was highly thought of for his work with Craig Anderson and others in the team's stable.
It's possible that he was viewed as being too close to Cameron to be kept around, but if that's the case, Dorion has trashed an asset that won't easily be replaced.
As for Wamsley, he likely won't be out of work for long.