In the Ottawa Senators' 6-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, goalie Anton Forsberg allowed five goals through the first two periods. Ottawa went into the third period trailing 5-1.
It should come as no surprise that Senators head coach D.J. Smith decided to pull Forsberg in favor of Joonas Korpisalo, who signed a five-year, $20 million contract with an annual average value of $4 million over the summer.
There was just one problem: Smith did not convey the switch to Forsberg, who went to the crease as the third period began. Finally, defenseman Travis Hamonic skated over to Forsberg to inform him Korpisalo was replacing him.
— Buffalo Hockey Moments (@SabresPlays) October 25, 2023
Smith's gaffe made the rounds on social media. Former NHL goalie Mike McKenna, who played for seven NHL teams including the Senators, called it "an unforgivable miscommunication." Senators fans even began chanting, "Fire D.J." during the game.
Born in Sweden, Forsberg was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2011 NHL Draft but didn't come to North America until after the conclusion of the 2013-14 Swedish Hockey League season. In 133 NHL games, he has a 3.08 goals-against average with a .907 save percentage.
Miscommunication between players and coaches is not uncommon, but how do you fail to tell your goaltender his night is done? That would be like a manager in Major League Baseball forgetting to go to the mound to take the ball from his pitcher and just calling in a reliever from the bullpen.
Smith is a veteran coach, having been with the Senators since May 2019, so he can't use being a first-year head coach as an excuse. He previously served as an assistant under Mike Babcock in Toronto with the Maple Leafs. The Senators missed the playoffs last season with a 39-35-8 record for 86 points, sixth in the Atlantic Division. They're off to a 3-3-0 start through the first six games of this season.
It will be interesting to see how the team responds to Smith. Needless to say, he'll have some work to do if he hopes to keep his players' trust.
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