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Jacques Martin Faces Panthers as Senators Coaching Gig Winds Down



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SUNRISE — Jacques Martin left his job as general manager of the Florida Panthers in 2009 and has returned numerous times to face them over the years, including tonight as interim coach of the Ottawa Senators.

Martin is a teacher by trade. When he had the opportunity to get back behind the bench in Montreal, he moved out of the Florida front office and returned to the work he enjoyed best.

A similar opportunity presented itself in December when Ottawa’s new owner decided to fire D.J. Smith and bring Martin back to the organization, where he remains the franchise’s all-time coaching leader in games, wins, and postseason appearances.

Martin, now 71, is nearing the end of his interim run as coach of the Senators.

He was living at his condo in Fort Lauderdale, working for French-Canadian television, when the Senators brought him back.

Martin only has a handful of games remaining behind the Senators bench, but he does not plan on leaving the organization.

When he was hired, it was as a senior advisor.

“I enjoy the organization and the people here, the new ownership group and we have a very good nucleus of players here,” Martin told FHN on Tuesday morning. “We just need to bring in some more veterans to help our skilled kids. Ottawa is probably the place I enjoyed the most; of course, we won in Pittsburgh. In Ottawa, when I was there, we had a good time and I feel bad we did not win the Cup because we were good enough to do it at the end. But we had a top team. And it is nice to be back.’’

Trying to get the Sens back on track and get things going in the right direction for the next coach is an ongoing job.

“It has been good. I think it is good to work with young players and we have made some strides,” Martin said. “One area I would like to see is more consistency, but I think we have improved our game management and how we need to play to be successful.

“One area that has been more difficult has been to change the habits because we have had such little practice time. Since I have taken over, we have played 15 games a month. You’re lucky to get one practice in a week. We’re moving forward as an organization and that will be important come training camp and early next season.”

Martin coached the Senators from 1996-2004 and still laments not getting Ottawa to the ultimate prize.

Under Martin, Ottawa reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2003 after winning the NHL Presidents’ Trophy. 

It looked like a serious contender in 2004 before losing (again) to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs.

Martin was fired following the 2004 playoffs and was quickly hired by the Panthers’ new GM Mike Keenan.

After one season, Martin took over as coach and general manager when Keenan was fired not long after trading Roberto Luongo to Vancouver.

Martin was the Panthers’ coach and general manager for two seasons before being relieved of his coaching duties in 2008. 

He remained GM, hiring Pete DeBoer to replace him behind the bench for one season.

He left for Montreal not only to coach one of hockey’s storied teams but also, with the Panthers quietly up for sale again, to take advantage of the opportunity to get out while the getting was good.

Martin describes his years with the Panthers as “difficult” despite some bright moments.

Florida did not make the playoffs in any of his four seasons here but came within a point in 2008-09 when Montreal took them out due to all of their overtime/shootout points.

Regulation wins became the first tiebreaker after that season.

Martin, who won the Stanley Cup twice as a valued assistant coach with the Penguins, says it is good to see the franchise he once led start having some success.

Tuesday morning, his blue convertible was sitting in the television production lot that he drove in from Fort Lauderdale.

He used to park underneath the arena for those four years he called the Sunrise arena his office.

“It is good to come back,” Martin said. “Before I went back to Ottawa, I came to a lot of games here and it is good to see the response from the fans for this team. It is great to see the success. This is a great place to be and they have a good club. I think they are one of the better clubs in the league. This is a good measuring stick for our team.”

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