Pierre McGuire has always had a sense of unfinished business in Ottawa.
A member of the Senators’ coaching staff in 1995-96, McGuire was part of the hockey operations group swept out the door when general manager Randy Sexton gave way to Pierre Gauthier in the middle of that season, Ottawa’s fourth as a franchise.
More than 25 years later, McGuire has returned — Pierre hired to assist yet another Pierre, Dorion. Long live the managers named Pierre in the Senators organization.
On Monday, Pierre McGuire, 59, was named senior vice-president of player development to support current GM Pierre Dorion. Henceforth, to avoid Pierre confusion, they shall be known internally as PM and PD, we suppose. The hire was made by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, in conjunction with Dorion.
“This is something I’ve been looking forward to, in terms of joining this family (again) for a long time,” McGuire said via Zoom call Monday. “I’ve always had a real drive toward Ottawa, the people there, the community, the hockey passion that people have. It’s meant a lot to me to have this opportunity.”
McGuire, known to hockey viewers throughout North America as the analyst voice on NBC broadcasts since 2006 is fired up, to say the least, to get back into team management again. It’s been a while since he worried about who got the two points at the end of the night.
“I love it,” McGuire said, clapping his hands at a question about being partisan again. “Ever since Mr. Melnyk told me that I had the position and I’ve been talking with Pierre Dorion, every day has been like a Game 7 for me. I’m just so excited about it.”
McGuire was a scout and assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s and was part of a Stanley Cup winner in 1992. He later served as assistant coach, then assistant GM and head coach of the now defunct Hartford Whalers.
Not only does McGuire feel the transition from between-the-benches broadcaster to management will be seamless, he is expected to tap into his famous communications skills by being a strong voice for the organization, which has missed the late Bryan Murray’s constant communicating when he was a senior manager with the club.
Working between the benches has been just as valuable as working behind one, according to McGuire.
“You get to see a lot behind the scenes of what works with each organization or league and what doesn’t work,” McGuire said.
“What players are trending up, what players are trending down … one part of working in the media that works if you’re doing it properly is that you do it with an unbiased eye. You don’t care who wins or loses or care about what the fans or GMs care about. You’re watching with unfettered access and with an unbiased eye.”
That is about to change in a big way. McGuire sees his role as “multi-dimensional,” working with amateur and pro scouts and the Senators’ NHL and AHL staff. He is also expected to work with the coaches in Ottawa and AHL Belleville, D.J. Smith and Troy Mann.
McGuire is bullish on the Senators young talent — led by Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk — and feels the team’s future could be exceptional. He notes the team could use more depth at the centre position and is a “bit light” on depth and talent on the blue line. He likes the Senators’ goaltending depth.
As he has remarked many times on Ottawa sports radio in the past, McGuire feels the Senators “stole the draft” in 2020 by selecting forward Tim Stützle as well as defencemen Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven.
McGuire can be intense in his broadcasts, and he admits he was extremely so as a young coach in the league. He said he has learned to “take a step back,” and be a little more calm in his appraisals and communication. While he has sometimes been at odds with the analytics community, McGuire says he doesn’t dislike analytics, but feels they don’t measure “heart, character and fearlessness,” in the way that “boots on the ground” can do.
Social media in Ottawa is already all over the map as far as liking this hire, and not. But no one can dispute that the Senators’ hockey operations staff is lean, and could use another pair of eyes, another strong voice.
Dorion said he plans to tap into McGuire’s hockey expertise in all facets of hockey operations, from player development and scouting to trades.
“Having watched a lot of NHL games, he is definitely going to have a lot of input as far as player movement, player transactions,” Dorion said. “But at the same time, he’s done some scouting. He’s been at a lot of world juniors, he’s seen a lot of college hockey over the last few years, so I think he can have input there also.”
The GM added that McGuire will be based in Ottawa and “very present” in everything we do, including input with coaches, scouts and players. Dorion likes the fact that McGuire comes in as an impartial voice on the Senators’ staff, without favourite players he might have drafted or traded for in the organization.
In the chain of command, McGuire will report to Dorion, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Dorion dismissed any concern that he may have hired his replacement. McGuire, who has been interviewed for numerous GM positions over the years, is believed to have a three-year deal with Ottawa.
“I think and I hope to be here for the long-term and I hope that Pierre McGuire is a part of my team for the long-term,” Dorion said.
“We all want ambitious people, people that are driven, to work with us, and there’s no denying the fact that Pierre is ambitious and driven,” Dorion said. “And I think that only makes us a better team and makes me a better general manager.
“The one thing is that I never worry about my contract. If you start worrying about your contract and what decisions you’re going to make, then you’re not helping the organization.”
Melnyk, who recommended McGuire to Dorion in early June, has had several conversations with McGuire over the past month.
Dorion said what most viewers know to be true, that McGuire’s passion for the game is both evident and contagious. He called it a “no brainer” to hire McGuire.
The two have had several meetings by phone and spent four hours in face-to-face conversation over the weekend at Mont Tremblant, where McGuire has a home.
“I love talking hockey, and I think Pierre McGuire is the same way,” Dorion said. “He loves talking hockey, loves talking players, loves talking about our plan. So, I think the dynamic is going to be exceptional.”
Since the announcement, McGuire said he has heard from a myriad of NHL players and executives wishing him well, including Brian Burke, John Davidson, Luc Robitaille and Bob Nicholson.
A native of Englewood, N.J., McGuire has spent a good part of his life in Quebec and is bilingual. He earned an English degree at Hobart College, where he competed in hockey and baseball, and later coached.
McGuire and wife, Melanie, have two children, Ryan and Justine. Justine is a competitive college rower and Ryan, who has played hockey in the USHL and BCHL, will play Division I hockey for Colgate University in the fall.
For the past several years, the McGuires have called Connecticut home. Now, for the first time since 1995, home is Canada’s Capital.
McGuire once did a wide-ranging radio segment in Ottawa called “Pierre Knows Everything.”
McGuire would be asked a quirky general knowledge question and then inevitably, almost magically, provide the answer — which listeners may or may not have believed was an inside job.
Hockey-wise, the Senators would love to find out that Pierre really does know everything.