On March 1st the Ottawa Senators announced they had fired head coach Guy Boucher. Additionally, they had promoted Marc Crawford to temporary head coach for the year. It is well known that Ottawa will be doing a big search for a head coach this summer. However, it is also believed Marc Crawford will be in the mix. So, how has the team responded to having a new bench boss?
Marc Crawford vs Guy Boucher
First, let’s take a look at the records. It should be said that since Crawford took over the Sens have played just 14 games, not including the Sens game Monday. This is a small sample size so caution should be taken.
However, when we compare the two records we see the team went 22–37-5 for 49 points in 64 games under Boucher. That equals 0.77 points per game, easily one of the worst marks in the league. The team is 6-7-1 for 13 points under Marc Crawford. Which equals 0.93 points per game. Still not very good but at least an improvement under the new head coach.
Marc Crawford also had the history on Boucher. This is his 16th season as a head coach in the National Hockey League. Along with a few as an assistant and some time in Europe, coming in, Crawford was considered a veteran.
Now, let’s take a look at the team. Have the Sens actually played better under Crawford? Under Guy Boucher, the Sens were dead last in CF% with 45.19%. They also ranked 27th in xGF% with 46.8%. While this can’t all be on the coach, it should be said that Boucher’s new system allowed the players to run and gun. While exciting, it really leads to a ton of chances against which hurt the Sens badly. Their CA/60 was a league-worst 65.83, more than a shot attempt per minute.
Under Crawford, the team has actually dropped to a 43.45% in CF% but that now ranks 30th. They also have fallen in xGF% with 44.7%. However, once again they rise one spot to 26th in the league. Under Crawford, they let up 67.04 CA/60. This once again puts them 30th.
So, they have actually played worse defensively, but their all-around their record has improved. Their placement in these ranks has also improved because other teams have played very poorly. If their underlying numbers have improved where has the improved record come from?
PDO is a team shooting and saves percentage combined to determine how “lucky” they are. Now, this isn’t the be all end all to define luck, as better teams with more shooting talent or great goaltending will usually have a higher PDO. However, generally, PDO will regress towards 100. So, let’s take a look at their shooting and save percentage with the different coaches.
Under Guy Boucher, they shot 9.98% which ranked 11th in the league. They also had .896 save percentage which ranked 26th in the league, putting their PDO at 99.58 which ranked them 17th. Pretty much that could tell you all things considered they were not lucky or unlucky given the team. Now, under Marc Crawford, the Sens have shot at 10.2% which ranks them 10th. As well, they have a .909 save percentage which ranks 13th. This puts their PDO at 101.5 which is considered on the luckier side.
Goaltending has been the biggest difference between coaches, however, we have already seen that Crawford hasn’t been much better at limiting shots against. In fact, the Sens have generated less HDCF/60 under Crawford, dropping from 2.78 to 2.64. They have also let up more HDCA/60 under Crawford going from 3.06 to 3.22.
Other Possible Reasons
One thing to consider is things that stats don’t always take into account. While luck is clearly a big part of the difference in records, there may be some more intangible reasons too. For example, it was rumoured the room had lost faith in Boucher by the end. They didn’t care or want to listen to what he had to say. So, when a new coach in Marc Crawford gets brought in it is possible that they feel they need to play better. They may be more open to listening to him and want to work a bit harder for him especially to start.
As well, it is possible players realize Boucher losing his job is partially on them and want to work harder. However, this type of stuff usually won’t last. Even if they get a bit of a boost from a new coach, that new coach won’t be new for long. Eventually, their harder work should reflect in their underlying numbers as well which it just doesn’t currently.
One thing to note is that Crawford has had a worse roster to work with. Losing Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel to trades has made this team worse for sure. So, there needs to be some thought put into the fact that he hasn’t had the same cards to play with. However, how much of this has led to the worse underlying numbers is hard to measure. Enough that it is for sure a factor, but, he has had some of the ability to call up younger guys even just for a game or two.
Should He Be Extended?
Given that Crawford’s underlying results have been worse than Boucher’s one may come to the conclusion he shouldn’t be considered as the full-time coach. This is a fair argument, however, it was mentioned earlier that these are small sample sizes. It is possible that it regresses to the norm after more of a sample size. Add in the fact that losing the three best players will make any team worse it is fair to say Crawford hasn’t done a horrible job. However, this team has not been “good” by any stretch either.
What it really comes down to for the Sens, though, is that they need to search far and wide for a coach. Only interviewing one or two people just shouldn’t cut it. Looking at guys from all types of leagues and ages could be very helpful. As of right now, Crawford is working, however, it doesn’t appear to be something that is sustainable long-term. Bringing in a younger guy who can relate to a younger team or a system guy who can get the team to fully buy in may be a better strategy for the Sens. Either way, it will be an interesting offseason.