The Ottawa Senators are looking for a coach who can relate to the younger players on their roster, and Marc Crawford, who took over March 1 after Guy Boucher was fired, is a candidate.
"We have more players that we would call millennials. I'm not going to ask the coach if he knows what Fortnite is," Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said Tuesday, referring to the popular video game. "But I think it's important to be able to relate to our players, and I think at the same time bring some kind of structure to our team that is needed, or a different type of structure that will allow us to have success and allow us to move this rebuild at quickly as possible."
The young core of the Senators includes 19-year-old forward Brady Tkachuk and 22-year-old forward Colin White, who each completed his rookie season. Thomas Chabot, a 22-year-old defenseman, completed his second season, as did 23-year-old defenseman Christian Jaros. The Senators acquired forward Anthony Duclair, who will be 24 in August, in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Ryan Dzingel on Feb. 23, and acquired 19-year-old defenseman Erik Brannstrom, the No. 15 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, from the Vegas Golden Knights in a trade for forward Mark Stone on Feb. 25.
The Senators, who traded veteran defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Mike Hoffman in the offseason, were last in the NHL standings (23-37-5) when Boucher, in his third season, was fired. Along with Dzingel and Stone, the Senators traded veteran forward Matt Duchene before the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25.
Crawford won the Stanley Cup as coach of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and was on Boucher's staff for three seasons. The 58-year-old went 7-10-1 after taking over. Dorion said at least 5-6 candidates will be interviewed.
"I think Marc did a really good job, we're really happy with what he brought," Dorion said. "But at the same time, I think we owe it to our fans, the organization, our players to make sure that we hire the best available coach.
"But definitely there are things that Marc did, that I'm not going to get into details, that we really liked. There were a few things he could have done better, but with his experience he definitely is going to be a candidate for us."
Dorion said shoring up the Senators defense will be a top priority for whoever he hires as coach.
The Senators allowed the most goals (301) in the NHL this season and were second last season (284), nine fewer than the New York Islanders. When Boucher was fired, they had allowed a League-leading 239 goals this season; in Crawford's 18 games, they allowed 62, which ranked fourth-to-last.
"We saw some changes under Marc that we did like, so at the same time I think the changes he brought were, whether they were little, and you can't do a lot in 18 games, but we saw an improvement there, so for us that was something," Dorion said. "Whether it's Marc, or someone else that is our head coach next year, as much as communication is a priority, teaching is a priority, the defensive structure of this team will be the biggest priority in hiring a new coach."