Head Coach D.J. Smith is used to being the go-to man behind the bench with the Ottawa Senators, but when he accepted Team Canada's invitation to the most recent World Championship, it was to play an assistant role to Claude Julien. Nevertheless, Smith believes he came out of this experience a better instructor than before.
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In addition to rubbing shoulders with Julien, still unemployed in the National League (NHL) since he was fired by the Montreal Canadiens in February 2021, Smith was able to assume his duties with André Tourigny, head coach of the Coyotes of the Arizona who also benefited from an assistant role for Canada.
"It was good to be able to get to know different people who impose different systems," the "Sens" instructor told the daily "Ottawa Sun" on Tuesday. Everyone has a different view on how to coach and you can see the reason why Julien won a Stanley Cup. It was good to work with him. He is calm and never panics.
“[Tourigny] is an excellent coach who has had a similar journey to mine. He spent a lot of time in the [Quebec Major Junior Hockey League]. Then he got his first job in the NHL [with the Senators]. He knows his hockey, he's done a lot of good things for Hockey Canada and he's a good guy."
The 45-year-old just wrapped up his third season as an NHL head coach, all with the Senators. He has an 81-104-24 record during his performance.
In 2021-22, the team from the federal capital again missed the playoffs with Smith behind the bench, extending their streak of failure to five seasons without participating. By virtue of 73 points in 82 games, she finished 26th in the NHL. Only the CH did less well in the Atlantic section. Smith could quickly find himself in the hot seat if the Senators continue in this vein.
"It's been tough for me, being in a Canadian market after a very long year, but I'm still trying to improve as a coach. Tournaments like this allow you to get better and give you different ideas on how to approach the game, Smith said. It also allowed me to see different players, because you never know when you might find them, whether it's because of a trade or free agents. Now I know them a little better.”
Before thinking about the next campaign, Smith will have the opportunity to clear his mind this summer. He will do this, among other things, by indulging “in golf for a month, non-stop”.