D.J. Smith was hired as coach of the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, signing a three-year contract.
The 42-year-old former NHL defenseman is the 14th coach in Senators history. He spent the past four seasons as an assistant under Mike Babcock with the Toronto Maple Leafs after guiding Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League to the Memorial Cup title in 2015.
"I'm absolutely excited for the opportunity to guide this young team," Smith told the Senators website. "We're going to be exciting. We're going to play fast. I think you're going to see a team that works hard every night.
"The best part is having the opportunity to help these guys grow into everyday [NHL players]. ... I'm looking to win, and we're looking to win this together."
The Senators (29-47-6) finished last in the NHL this season. They were 22-37-5 when they fired coach Guy Boucher on March 1. He was replaced by Marc Crawford, who was 7-10-1.
Oshawa was 135-53-16 in three seasons under Smith, who was named the OHL Coach of the Year after a 42-20-6 finish in 2013-14. Oshawa went 51-11-6 during its championship season of 2014-15. Before being named coach at Oshawa, Smith spent six seasons as an assistant with Windsor of the OHL and was part of its back-to-back Memorial Cup championship teams in 2009 and 2010.
"We felt he brought a lot of accountability," general manager Pierre Dorion told the team website. "He's someone who was a winner as a junior coach, someone who has a huge presence.
"We just felt it was the right mix for us, and that he was someone who would be able to grow with our team."
Babcock told TSN he was pleased to see his former assistant take the next step in his coaching career.
"I'm so happy for D.J.," he said. "One thing I believe is the idea that if you come and work for me, you share your info, I share mine and you get to go on your way. I'm pumped for him.
"He's going to do a good job. They're lucky to have him."
https://twitter.com/TSNHockey/status/1131570003789123584 https://twitter.com/TSNHockey/status/1131570003789123584 https://twitter.com/TSNHockey/status/1131570003789123584 https://twitter.com/TSNHockey/status/1131570003789123584
Smith was a second-round pick (No. 41) by the New York Islanders in the 1995 NHL Draft. The Islanders traded him to Toronto on March 13, 1996 and he made his NHL debut on March 23, 1997. Smith played eight games for Toronto in 1996-97 and three in 1999-2000, and 34 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2002-03. Smith also spent nine seasons in the American Hockey League with St. John's and Hershey before retiring in 2004, finishing with one goal and one assist in 45 NHL games.
The Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks are the remaining two NHL teams without a coach.