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Senators forge ahead amid turmoil: 'Got to cut the noise out'


Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith says his team will just have to block out the noise moving forward.

The Senators fired general manager Pierre Dorion on Wednesday after the franchise was forced to forfeit a first-round pick in one of the next three upcoming drafts for its role in an invalidated trade in 2022.

The move also followed forward Shane Pinto's 41-game suspension for violating league gambling rules last week.

Smith says players have a responsibility to tune out these distractions.

"I mean, it's easy for me to say they look good and they look sharp," Smith said on Thursday of his players' mental space. "But the one thing I think you could always go back to is focus on yourself. Look in the mirror and be the best (you) for that 60 minutes.

"And then whatever the side noises, you know, you got to deal with that. But the best teams just cut the noise out and we've got to cut the noise out."

Wednesday's punishment stemmed from Ottawa's failure to disclose Evgenii Dadonov’s 10-team, no-trade list to Vegas when Ottawa dealt the forward to the Golden Knights in July 2021.

As a result, the Knights' trade of Dadonov to Anaheim in 2022 was invalidated as the Ducks were one of the teams on his no-trade list.

Dorion paid for the team's negligence by losing his job of eight years on Wednesday, and president of hockey operations, Steve Staios, was named interim GM.

"Hate to see somebody lose their job, of course for all things that he's done for us," Senators captain Brady Tkachuk said of Dorion. "(I) was able to talk to him (Wednesday) and just wanted to wish him all the best. But now I think it's time to look forward."

Heading into Thursday home game with the L.A. Kings, the Senators sat in last place in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference with 4-4-0 record. Ottawa just snapped a three-game losing skid last Saturday with a win over Pittsburgh.

Tkachuk said Staios has already held a positive meeting with the players.

"He instilled a lot of confidence and belief in our group here and what we've built here and how we're going to be moving forward," Tkachuk said. "It was nice to hear the confidence and the trust we have as a group and what we can accomplish in the future."

Smith sees the scenario as a new beginning.

"We have no choice but to move on and look to a fresh start with (owner) Michael (Andlauer) and Steve," Smith said. "Our coaching staff has a fresh start here, Nov. 1, to start to make some ground and get (to) winning some hockey games."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2023.