Martin loses job after latest playoff setback

Updated: April 23, 2004, 2:11 AM ET
Associated Press

OTTAWA -- Another playoff loss to Toronto cost Jacques Martin his job as Ottawa Senators coach.

Martin was fired Thursday after coaching Ottawa for 8 seasons. He had been the league's longest-serving active coach.

"To be able to last that long and build, I think, a good relationship with a lot of the players, I've been a very fortunate individual," he said at a news conference.

The Game 7 loss in the first round Tuesday marked the fourth time in five seasons the Senators have been ousted by the Maple Leafs.

"No doubt the disappointment is not to be given the opportunity to finish what was started," Martin said. "But I understand. I appreciate what I had here for almost nine years."

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

"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," general manager John Muckler said at an earlier news conference.

Assistant coach Don Jackson and goaltending coach Phil Myre also were 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.

Muckler said 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?" he said. "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," he added.

Muckler said the new coach will have to "fix" the Senators and find more leadership. He added that he had no interest in returning behind the bench.

Martin, 51, presented a stoic front. He revealed little of his thoughts, and that may have contributed to his undoing in Ottawa. Fans wanted someone to inspire the players when the pressure was on.

"I believe I am not the show," he said. "The players are the show."

Martin was the NHL's coach of the year in 1998-99, when Toronto's Pat Quinn was runner-up. Martin has been a finalist for the award three other times. His regular-season record at Ottawa was 341-255-96.

Lindy Ruff, who has been with Buffalo since the 1997-98 season, now has the longest current tenure among NHL coaches.

While the Senators became a better team under Martin, a 31-38 postseason record was deemed insufficient. The Senators won four of 12 playoff series and two of their last four under Martin.

The Senators had their best season in franchise history in 2002-03, winning the Presidents' Trophy as the top team in the regular season before reaching the conference final for the first time.

That led to big expectations this season. Ottawa finished fifth in the East with a 43-29-10 record before falling to Toronto.

Martin came to Ottawa from the Colorado Avalanche, where he was an assistant. He became coach of the Senators on Jan. 24, 1996, after Dave Allison was fired.

Martin was head coach of the Eastern Conference team at the 2003 All-Star game. He coached the World Team at the 2001 All-Star game.

He also was an assistant for Canada at the Olympics and is to have a similar role at the World Cup of Hockey this year.

Martin entered the NHL as coach of St. Louis in 1986-87 and 1987-88, leading the Blues to the Norris Division championship in his rookie season.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press