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D.J. Smith and his coaching staff are searching for answers.
If you want to be one of the best, you’ve got to learn from those at the top of the league, and with the NHL season paused because of the novel coronavirus the Ottawa Senators are studying ways they can improve when they do return to the ice.
Smith, assistants Jack Capuano, Davis Payne, Bob Jones, goalie coach Pierre Groulx and video coaches Mike King and Evan Matthias, have been meeting weekly to break down the way the top 10 teams in the league do things to help Ottawa get better.
“I’ve been breaking down the best teams in the league and then I present to our coaches, and they’ve been doing the same thing with special teams and other areas,” Smith said Thursday. “We’re looking at the top 10 teams in the league and what they do with special teams and what systems they play. We’re also doing the analytics to go with it to see what we can improve on and what we might change.
“You have to explain to the players why you’re doing it. For example, the St. Louis Blues put the puck in every time and they play above it, and the analytics show it worked because they won the Stanley Cup. If I’m going to get our players to buy into something I have to have proof that it works before they go wholeheartedly into it. Before I change anything, I want to make sure it works.
“Ultimately, systems are systems and I want to have the best one that suits our team. As long as we work hard and keep working as hard as we do, eventually we’ll start to win more games.”
Smith said the club has to clean up its act defensively and improve on special teams.
“We really gave up a lot of goals in the second half,” said Smith. “Is it with the injuries to the back end? We were No. 12 or No. 13 in goals against until all those defencemen got hurt at once. Ultimately, we’ve got to stay healthy and, secondly, our special teams have to be better.
“If you can get into the top 15 in the league, and I’m not saying we can do that right away, but your chances of making the playoffs are significantly higher. We’re in the bottom in both of them.”
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