Senators reportedly interested in the Toronto Marlies Head Coach

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
The problem with hiring good people is that if someone has an opening for a better job, there is a good chance your good person is going to get hired away. To put that in TLN terms that’s why Dom Luszczyszyn, Kyle Cushman, and Earl Schwartz have all gone on to other places and you’ve been stuck reading me on the site for almost a decade. But I digress, this isn’t about me, it’s about the Ottawa Senators and their love of using the Maple Leafs staff directory as their way of filling organizational vacancies.
Almost immediately following the firing of D.J. Smith one of the first names thrown out as a potential candidate by Elliotte Friedman on The Jeff Marek Show was John Gruden, the Toronto Marlies bench boss. Probably not surprising as the Leafs have produced a number of first time NHL head coaches through either their Assistants or through the AHL as Spencer Carbery, DJ Smith, Dallas Eakins, and of course, Sheldon Keefe all recently came up through those ranks.
In a recent article by Frank Seravalli, the reasoning for Gruden as a candidate was expanded on:
The real John Gruden, who is off to a solid start in his first year as head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. You don’t have to look very far back in Andlauer’s playbook to understand why he is a prime candidate. Staios was one of Andlauer’s very first hires when his purchase of the Sens was completed, his appointment was one of the worst kept secrets in hockey. They had formed a strong trust working and winning together with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. The same bond exists with Gruden, Staios and Andlauer, as Gruden guided Hamilton to a 76-45-15 record and the OHL title in 2017-18. Gruden, 53, then moved on to the NHL, where he spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach with the Islanders and Bruins, before jumping back to be a head coach in the AHL. Gruden also played career 22 games as a Senator under Martin. One lingering question: Should the Sens go with a second straight first-time NHL head coach?
Andlauer seems to be trying to get the band back together as much as possible and Toronto has witnessed firsthand the benefits of having a coach and GM who are on the same page set the pace for the organization, although Staios might solely be the President of Hockey Operations once all is said and done. 6
There’s also a lot of success that you can attribute to Gruden, both the Islanders and Bruins were very sound defensive teams while he was focusing his attention there and the Marlies have a .625 points percentage, a sound but not stellar number by AHL standards but certainly one that combined with his previous resume would make him a strong candidate even without the Hamilton Bulldog connections.
Gruden is probably compensated very well to be the Marlies Head Coach but the allure of one of the few NHL jobs being available probably has a huge interest for him and the Rangers set a bit of a precedent earlier this season when they allowed Kris Knoblauch to pursue the Oilers opportunity despite coaching in Hartford. The Gruden situation might be a bit different as it is a divisional rival, a provincial rival, and Gruden might be someone that Treliving and the Leafs see as their long term option behind the Maple Leafs bench if things go sour with Sheldon Keefe.
It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out and if Toronto will need to find a new coach for the Marlies in the New Year or possibly in the offseason as the Senators could also stick with Jacques Martin for the remainder of the season and allow their permanent GM to name the permanent coach.
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