OTTAWA — Pierre Dorion wasted no time making his first move as general manager of the Ottawa Senators.
Head coach Dave Cameron and assistants Andre Tourigny, Jason Smith and Rick Wamsley were all fired Tuesday, just two days after Dorion took over as GM from Bryan Murray. Smith was offered another position within the organization.
Ottawa missed the playoffs after a disappointing 38-35-9 record.
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Cameron completed his first full season as Ottawa’s head coach, posting a 70-50-17 overall record. He also spent three years as an assistant coach with the club and has a year remaining on his contract.
Cameron, 57, was the 11th coach in franchise history. He took over as head coach Dec. 8, 2014, after the struggling team fired Paul MacLean.
The Senators made an improbable run to the postseason after Cameron took over, qualifying for the playoffs in their final regular-season game. Ottawa finished 23-4-4 over its final 31 games, making up a 14-point deficit.
After taking the favored Montreal Canadiens to six games in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Senators were expected to build on their success and repeat as a playoff team this season. Instead, they were plagued by injuries and inconsistent play and took a significant step back.
Tuesday’s moves weren’t surprising as the coaching staff wasn’t invited to participate in player exit meetings Monday.
"This is not a great day and it’s not a fun day," Dorion told reporters. "They are all good people.
"It was tough for me to do on a personal level and on a professional level."
Ottawa has had a coaching carousel since Bryan Murray left following the 2006-07 season. The club has gone through six head coaches, including Murray’s brief stint in 2008 after John Paddock was fired.
Dorion said ideally a new head coach will be in place come the NHL draft in June, but won’t hesitate to wait if the right candidate isn’t found by then.
"This is huge," he said. "I just need to make sure I make the right decision.
"Probably (of) anything that we do in the next few years, this will (have) the biggest impact on the team so we’re going to take our time. We’re going to do it in the proper manner, we’re going to hire the right person."
While Cameron and his staff will shoulder blame for Ottawa’s season, Dorion said the players also need to be held accountable.
"Players are part of this too," Dorion said. "You can’t fire 23 players, you can’t, but sometimes it’s the direction they’re heading in."
It was Cameron’s second stint with the Senators organization. He previously coached the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators for three seasons (2004-07).
He also coached in the Ontario Hockey League for 10 seasons with Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto/Mississauga.
Dorion hasn’t had a chance to compile a list of coaching candidates yet, but does have some criteria in place.
"We’re definitely going to look at someone who can make a commitment to have our players play defense," he said. "We’re going to hire someone good.
"I know there’s a good quality coach that we can hire out there when our season starts in September."
This season, Ottawa allowed the first goal 51 times, was outshot in 60 games and finished fifth in goals against (241).
Ottawa is financially tied for one more year to both Cameron and MacLean, but Dorion said that won’t hamper his coaching search.
"Mr. Melnyk (owner Eugene Melnyk) has made it very clear to me we have the resources to hire whoever the best coach is," Dorion said. "I come from a bit of a scouting background and we always say we’re going to draft the best player available.
"Well we’re going to hire the best coach available."
Dorion said ideally the next Senators’ head coach will have previous NHL head coaching experience, but added that won’t necessarily be a requirement for the job.
"Ideally, someone with NHL (head) coaching experience would be great," he said. "But there could be a candidate that’s 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.