Ottawa Senators head coach John Paddock looks over his first line. THE CANADIEN PRESS/ Sean Kilpatrick
PHILADELPHIA - Bryan Murray made his biggest move of the season one day after the NHL's trade deadline.
Feeling the need to shake up a team that's gone only 11-12-2 in 2008, the Ottawa Senators GM decided to go back behind the bench for the rest of the season after firing head coach John Paddock on Wednesday.
"(The change) comes certainly because of performance lately," Murray told reporters in Philadelphia on the eve of a game against the Flyers. "I think the results that we'd been having or not having was an indicator that some adjustment, that some emotion had to be brought back to the team."
It's not every day that a team sitting second in its conference fires the coach with 18 games left in the regular season. But this was an Ottawa club that no longer resembled the Stanley Cup contender that stormed out of the gates winning 15 of its first 17 games.
"It's always a surprise when a coach gets let go," said centre Jason Spezza. "We've been struggling, but as a team I don't think we thought it would come to the coach getting fired.
"It just shows the high standard we have in our dressing room, the city of Ottawa, and that our owner has. It shows how competitive a team they think we have."
Murray, who was head coach the last two seasons before being promoted to GM last summer, also fired assistant coach Ron Low. The moves come on the heals of a 4-0 loss at Boston on Tuesday night and a 5-0 loss at home to rival Toronto on Monday.
Murray hopes the move Wednesday will wake up his players.
"I would hope that they're embarassed by the way they've played lately," said Murray. "And I would hope that they would see that we had some shortcomings, and that they will be considerably better going forward."
Paddock was in his sixth season with the Senators organization and posted a 36-22-6 record in his lone season as head coach.
"He took a lot of heat lately," captain Daniel Alfredsson said of Paddock. "Right or wrong, he's in that position where that comes with the job. But it feels bad that we couldn't come out and get him some more wins here down the stretch."
A popular refrain after coaches get fired is that they had "lost the room." And that was the rumour with Paddock.
"That's B.S. if you ask me," said Alfredsson. "It kind of bothers me to hear that. He had the ears of everyone in the locker-room. We just didn't perform and get him wins."
The Senators have a talented roster, largely similar to the one that reached the Cup final last year before losing to Anaheim. But over the past two months, the Sens have suffered from defensive lapses and poor special teams play.
But no matter who is behind the bench, the Sens will need better goaltending from Ray Emery and Martin Gerber. Ottawa ranks only 24th in the NHL in goaltending with a 2.90 goal-against average and that won't cut it no matter who's in charge.
Paddock, who joined the Senators in 2002 as head coach of the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton, has been offered another position within the organization and will take some time to think about it.
"When you have to make hard calls like this, it's always emotional," Murray said. "It's a difficult one but it's the right one at the moment, I believe, the way we've been playing."
"Really since late December, we've seen the team not compete at the level we were close to competing at for most of the first part of the year."
Assistant coach Greg Carvel, goaltending coach Eli Wilson, conditioning and player development coach Randy Lee and video coach Tim Pattyson remained on staff.
Murray promoted Paddock to the head coaching job last July, filling the vacancy created when Murray took over as GM after John Muckler was fired.
Paddock had served as Murray's assistant for two seasons before getting the promotion, which came 12 years after his last NHL head coaching job with the Winnipeg Jets. Paddock, 53, spent less than four years as coach of the Jets and has also been an assistant GM with the Flyers and director of pro scouting with the New York Rangers.
Low, 57, was in his fourth season with the Senators organization and first as assistant coach, having served his first three years as goaltending coach and pro scout.
Murray, 65, has coached more than 1,300 games in the regular season and playoffs. He has a regular-season coaching record of 100-46-18 with Ottawa.
Murray began his NHL coaching career with the Washington Capitals on Nov. 11, 1981. He remained at the helm of the Capitals for over eight seasons and won the Jack Adams Award in 1984 as the NHL's coach of the year.