When Pierre McGuire was introduced as Ottawa Senators senior vice-president of player development last month, he said he was optimistic about the organization’s direction.
McGuire reiterated those feelings of optimism on Wednesday in an interview with TSN 1200 Ottawa.
“The future is amazingly bright here. It really is. It’s really awesome to be a part of it, I’ve got to tell you,” McGuire said.
“I think it’s no secret, we needed to be more robust in goal and I think that was very apparent as [last] season went on, we got better in goal. I think we needed to be a little more stout in our own zone and that clearly got better as the season went along and so there’s a lot to like about how the season ended.”
The Senators were dreadful out of the gate in 2020-21, going 2-12-1 through their first 15 games, but finished 11-15-4 to record their highest points percentage (.455) in four seasons.
“What I really appreciated was the way the coaching staff didn’t mail it in on the team. D.J. [Smith] didn’t mail it in, Jack [Capuano] didn’t mail it in, Davis [Payne] didn’t mail it in. Those guys were really stern in terms of making the players better,” McGuire said.
The Sens had a fairly quiet off-season, headlined by the additions of defenceman Michael Del Zotto in free agency and a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Nick Holden. McGuire said he thinks the veteran presence they bring could do a lot for a young team like Ottawa.
“The addition of Nick Holden has been huge for our organization, we’re really excited to welcome Nick, his family and four children to Ottawa. Really excited about the signing of Michael Del Zotto. Nobody really talks about this but last year in Columbus, he was the only plus player on their defence last year and he was logging big minutes. And don’t forget the situation with Zach Werenski with injuries and Seth Jones with injuries and Michael was kind of a go-to guy. I know a lot of people didn’t watch Columbus play but I can tell you he had a tremendous year last year and we’re really excited about that,” he said, also taking time to point out what he sees as productive summers from a handful of young players.
“I can give you really good internal reports on the training habits of all our players but in particular, Shane Pinto, who I’ve been tracking pretty much regularly, and he’s been training on Long Island. Nick Paul, and I haven’t spoken with Nick yet, but from everything I’ve been able to discern I guess he’s had a phenomenal summer. I’ve been in touch with Colin White and I know he’s had a really proactive summer. So there’s a lot that I can say that’s really positive about our group right now and I’ve heard so many good things about all our players but those are the ones that I know a little bit more about right now,” McGuire said.
The 59-year-old McGuire worked as a broadcaster for the past 20 years and was the face of NBC Sports’ hockey coverage since 2006. He joined the Senators for the second time in July after serving as a pro scout from 1994-96. He also won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a scout and assistant coach in 1991 and 1992 and was head coach of the Hartford Whalers in 1996-97.
McGuire said he made the decision to jump back into hockey management when ESPN was awarded the American hockey rights beginning this coming season. While McGuire admitted other teams inquired, he knew Ottawa was where he belonged once they reached out.
“It’s been so seamless, it’s been so easy for me, for my family, and I’m really grateful. I’m really grateful for the opportunity, it’s where I wanted to be.