He spent four years as an assistant under Mike Babcock with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but taking on a new role with the Senators will be one of the biggest challenges of his career.
A second-round draft pick by the New York Islanders in 1995, Smith played in 45 games in parts of three seasons with the Maple Leafs (1996-97, 1999-2000) and the Colorado Avalanche (2002-03).
Making his National Hockey League coaching debut with the Leafs in the 2015-16 season, Smith has been reportedly in charge of the defensive side of the game for Toronto. Smith, who is the 14th coach in the franchise's history, has been an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs the past four seasons.
After Smith's departure, Toronto announced it has added Paul McFarland, who has spent the last two years with the Panthers, to Babcock's staff.
"D.J. was driving us and we had to tell the border guy that we were going to Dallas to interview Rick Bowness with D.J. driving us from Windsor to the Detroit airport", Dorion said with a laugh Thursday.
"We believe he is the best person to drive the development and success of the Ottawa Senators", Dorion said. "We felt we interviewed the seven best candidates for this job and when we went back over it, there were numerous things that we liked about D.J. The one thing is his passion. We're thrilled to welcome D.J. and his family to Ottawa".
The concussion symptoms had lingered for almost a year when D.J. Smith finally chose to end an eight-year pro career at the age of 27 in December of 2004.
Dorion had similar enthusiasm when he hired Boucher in May 2016, saying, "No doubt in my mind, from the first time that I met him I felt this would be the guy to lead the Ottawa Senators".
The NHL now has yet another head coach with Windsor-Essex connections. I will say that while I'm not excited with Smith coming in, I'm happy that they at least did not bring in a retread head coach who has been around the league and has failed multiple times.
Smith grew up in Windsor and played hockey as a defenceman.
"The coach in me is thinking lineup, getting to meet my players and how training camp is going to go", Smith said. "People come to work and I want to get the guess-work out of there". Even if he never gets the Senators to the playoffs over the next three seasons but he makes most of this core of young players progressively better every season, hiring him will be worth it.
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