Senators fire head coach Martin

Jacques Martin's nine-year tenure as head coach of the Ottawa Senators is over.

The Senators fired their long-time bench boss Thursday, two days after Ottawa made a first-round playoff exit, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games.

It marked the fourth time in five seasons the Senators have been eliminated by their Ontario rivals.

"In order to take the next step, towards winning a Stanley Cup, we must select a new face, a new voice with a fresh approach and with new ideas," Senators general manager John Muckler told a news conference at the Corel Centre in Ottawa.

Assistant coach Don Jackson and goaltending coach Phil Myre were also fired. Perry Pearn, another assistant, was not let go. He is still under contract, but Muckler said he will not be a candidate for the head coaching job.

The Ottawa GM said he would begin the search for a replacement immediately, but that the Senators were in rush to name Martin's successor.

Muckler said he wants to find the best candidate and one who will "fix" the culture in the Senators dressing room and find and develop more leadership.

Martin was the NHL's coach of the year in 1998-99 and was a finalist for the award three other times.

He was given a two-year contract extension in January with a club option for a third in case of a lockout next season.

Though Martin helped Ottawa become one of the NHL's top teams, the Senators managed to win just four of 12 playoff series during his tenure.

The Senators won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team in the regular season in 2002-03 and reached the conference final for the first time in team history where they lost to eventual Stanley Cup winners New Jersey in seven games.

After the success of last season, expectations for the Senators were high this year. The team had new ownership under businessman Eugene Melnyk. Team captain Daniel Alfredsson even guaranteed the team would win the Stanley Cup.

But things soured this year.

Ottawa finished fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 43-29-10 record, which set up a first-round matchup with Toronto.

The playoff series was tight through six games, but in Game 7, the Maple Leafs – buoyed by the goaltending of Ed Belfour – smothered the Senators and posted a convincing 4-1 victory.

Muckler said losing Game 7 wasn't a deciding factor in Martin's firing and that some of the blame "has to sit in the dressing room."

"But it's like the oldest cliche in the world in our industry, you can't fire 29 people. Is it right? Sometimes it's not, but I know one thing that's right. We needed a change.

"We need someone to come in and take us over the top of the mountain."

Martin came to Ottawa from Denver, where he was an assistant for the Avalanche. He took over as head coach of the Senators on Jan. 24, 1996, after Dave Allison was fired.

During his eight full seasons with the Senators, Martin coached the Eastern Conference team at the 2003 NHL all-star game and the World Team at the 2001 NHL all-star game. He was also an associate coach for Team Canada at the Olympics and will have a similar role at the World Cup of Hockey later this year.

Martin's regular-season record with the Senators was 341-255-96.

Muckler said he didn't expect Martin to be without work for long, calling him "the pick of the litter."

with files from Canadian Press