OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators will be looking for their seventh coach in nine years after firing Dave Cameron and assistants Andre Tourigny and Rick Wamsley on Tuesday. Assistant coach Jason Smith was offered another position with the organization.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, who took over the job Sunday when Bryan Murray stepped aside, said he's looking for a coach who can improve Ottawa's defensive play. The Senators were 30th in the NHL in shots allowed (32.8 per game) and 26th in goals allowed (2.94).
"Defense is a priority," Dorion said. "I'm excited about watching playoff hockey, starting [Wednesday]. It's so fun to watch playoff hockey. I hope now that I'm a GM, I can go to a few games, if some rinks will let me in. But NHL playoff hockey, there's nothing better, for me, on TV. Some of you might like 'The Bachelor,' I like watching NHL playoff hockey, so commitment to defense is important.
"You look at all the teams that are in the playoffs, they're pretty good defensively."
Dorion listed the qualities he'd like the 12th coach in Senators history to have: "I think communication with your players, making sure the players understand the message. Good practices. Accountability from your side of things, great relationship with management," Dorion said.
"A GM and coach are like husband and wife. If you want to have success, you have to work together. Sometimes there are hard conversations, but for any team to have success, you have to be on the same page, GM and coach. That's what we're looking for."
Murray gave coaches like Cory Clouston, Paul MacLean and Cameron their first NHL head coaching jobs. Dorion was asked if it was important with this hire to bring in an experienced coach.
"Ideally, someone with head NHL coaching experience would be great," he said. "But there could be a candidate that is so special out there, that doesn't have NHL head coaching experience, and he might be the guy that leads us to the promised land, then he would be the guy that we will hire."
Dorion would like to have a new coach in place by the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24-25.
Cameron, 57, replaced MacLean as coach on Dec. 8, 2014. Fourteen points out of a playoff spot on Feb. 10, 2015, the Senators finished the season with a 23-4-4 run and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They lost in the Eastern Conference First Round to the Montreal Canadiens in six games.
But the Senators, who gave up the first goal 51 times this season and were outshot in 60 games, never found that consistent game under Cameron this season. They were 26th on the power play (15 power-play goals at home) and 29th in penalty killing this season.
Cameron was 70-50-17 as Senators coach.
Dorion said he, Murray, assistant general manager Randy Lee and senior adviser to hockey operations Daniel Alfredsson, spent a lot of time trying to figure out how things changed between last spring and this season.
"I don't know if it was expectations. We asked ourselves that many times," Dorion said. "I can tell you Bryan, Randy, even [Alfredsson], we've asked ourselves that question many times. What changed from last year?
"When Dave took over, we weren't giving as many shots. Our special teams weren't where they are this year. We were 30th in shots against this year. Bryan pointed out something to the players yesterday: 'You know guys, there are 30 teams in the NHL and we're 30th in giving up shots against?' To me, that is unacceptable. That's talking about our commitment to playing better defense."
Dorion said the players are as much to blame for the Senators missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
"I talked to the players about their own accountability," he said. "I said, 'How can we be so good some nights and so bad other nights?' It wasn't a pleasant conversation with the players … some guys didn't leave there with their heads held up high. It's not just on the coaching staff, it's also on our players. But in saying that, I really feel positive about the exit meetings [Monday]. I think these guys want to win. Actually no, I apologize about that. I know these guys want to win."
Dorion said the new coach will have full autonomy to hire his assistant coaches. He said he has been assured by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk "we have the resources to hire the best available coach."
After it was pointed out how many coaches the Senators have had since 2007, Dorion was asked how much pressure he felt to hire a coach who will have some longevity with the team.
"I hope he's here for a long time," he said. "Whomever that person is, I hope they're here for a long time. If I didn't want to be GM, I wouldn't have taken [the job]. I know there is going to be pressure every decision you make. This is a big one. This is huge. You've just got to make sure you make the right decision."