Kilrea backs DeBoer as coach

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

If Brian Kilrea had a vote, Peter DeBoer would be the next coach of the Senators.

The 67's coaching legend thinks Senators GM Bryan Murray can't go wrong if he goes with DeBoer, the coach and GM of the Kitchener Rangers.

While there's a significant age difference between the 73-year-old Kilrea and DeBoer, who turns 40 tomorrow, the 67's coach and GM has nothing but respect for his Rangers counterpart.

"If they decide on Peter DeBoer, then they're getting a great coach and the right man for the job," Kilrea said yesterday from his office at the Civic Centre. "I've always said that he's the best coach in our league and he deserves the chance to coach in the NHL.

"He's a disciplined coach, he commands respect and he's earned the opportunity to show he can coach in that league. He's ready to go up to that league and he should be a No. 1 guy. He's not the type or guy who should be an assistant coach. He's able to run his own show."

No decision on whether DeBoer will be offered the job will be made until today.

Murray wants to make sure DeBoer, who spent the past two days meeting with Senators owner Eugene Melnyk in Barbados, is serious about making the jump from junior.

The fact DeBoer has emerged as the favourite to land Ottawa's coaching job stems from what sources say was his impressive meeting with Murray eight days ago that wound up lasting more than six hours.

Impressive enough to land him a trip to Barbados.

While Murray has strong candidates in Sault Ste. Marie coach Craig Hartsburg, 48, and former Atlanta bench Bob Hartley, 47 -- both of whom had impressive interviews -- there's a sense the organization wants to get a little younger behind the bench.

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With so many potential coaches out there, it might seem silly for Murray to decide to dip into junior to hire a guy who has no NHL experience, but Murray made a similar leap of faith when he took over in Anaheim in 2002 and hired Mike Babcock, who had never coached above the AHL level.

All Babcock did his rookie year was lead the Ducks to the Stanley Cup final, where they lost to the Devils.

Naturally, with names like Pat Burns, Pat Quinn, Hartley and Hartsburg being bandied about when the coaching search started, the players would be a little surprised if DeBoer gets the job.

"I don't really know (DeBoer). I know him to say hello, but not much more," Senators centre Jason Spezza said. "I've crossed paths with him a lot because when I played (junior) in Windsor, he was coaching in Plymouth and we had some battles with them. I know his reputation and it's a good one."

If the Senators hire DeBoer, there's a strong belief in NHL circles that the club is going to need an experienced assistant coach.

Since former coach John Paddock is already under contract, there was one suggestion yesterday that the club might want to put him in that role with DeBoer.

Kilrea said nobody should worry about DeBoer making the transition to the pro level because he's going to have plenty of support.

"You've got a guy who has more than 500 wins as the GM. He knows a little bit about what it takes to be successful," Kilrea said of Murray. "The players aren't going to treat (DeBoer) with disrespect just because he's coming from junior. They're going to have to answer to him.

"DeBoer is all business when he gets behind the bench and his teams are well prepared. The guy is ready to do this job. He's won a lot of games in the OHL and that's no accident. He'll be just fine if he's their choice.

"I hope he gets the chance. I really do."


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