Wade Redden returns to Senators in development role


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On Monday, in a life that has come full circle, former Senators star defenseman Wade Redden and current coach DJ Smith couldn’t help but think back to the past.

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In 1995, the New York Islanders drafted Redden second overall and went on to take Smith with the 41st selection. They attended an Islanders development camp together before the trades in 1996 sent Redden to the Senators and Smith to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“We kinda laughed about it, about some of those (days),” Redden said after taking to the ice for his first day as the new Senators development coach. “I don’t think we would skate as fast as these kids here today, I’ll say it all.

After being traded to the Senators along with goaltender Damian Rhodes for a package that included former first overall pick Bryan Berard, Redden became one of the Senators franchise’s first stars.

Redden scored in his first NHL game and went on to help lead the Senators to their first-ever playoff appearance as a rookie. He remains the team’s all-time plus/minus leader (plus 159), ranks fourth in games played (838), fifth in points (410) and sixth in penalty minutes (576). In his 11 seasons with the Senators, the club never missed the playoffs.

He also played for the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins, finishing his NHL career with 109 goals and 348 assists in 1,023 games.

Redden will now be tasked with helping some of the club’s top young defensive prospects hone their skills in hopes of eventually reaching the NHL themselves. It’s similar to the role he had with the Nashville Predators several years ago. He will work alongside fellow Senators development coaches Shean Donovan and Jesse Winchester.

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“Working with (Nashville) and tasting it has been a great experience for me,” said Redden, who will have to commute from his home in Kelowna, B.C., where he lives with his wife, Danica, and daughters Leni. , 12, Harper, 10 and Ryann, six.

“I’ve stayed in touch with (Donovan) over the years and we’ve talked about it a bit, but now was the time. I hadn’t done much (in hockey) for a few years. It worked well for this opportunity.

Redden still puts faces to names but acknowledges he’s part of a collaborative effort to push young players to improve.

“Even from day one, sitting down with these guys and the Belleville guys and the Ottawa coaches, it’s part of a group effort with all these guys and you talk about everything and you see different things. Everyone has something to offer. Certainly, (with) my experience in defense, I will try to deepen this.

Beyond Redden’s experience in the role, Donovan says his presence brings positivity to the organization, considering he’s been part of the greatest streak in Senators history.

“He was a very smart defenseman and he had a lot of success,” Donovan said. “It’s good to bring guys back here who were there when the team was winning and bringing that culture back. He loves Ottawa, always talked about Ottawa. We stayed in touch. We were teammates on the world junior team (from Canada) and he was always asking about the team and I was always bugging him about becoming a development coach, I thought that would be a good fit.

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Donovan says a team never has enough eyes and ears to help prospects keep improving.

“These guys have coaches and skill officers, but the more you can help them the better,” he said. “They love the attention. It’s a new (age of) player. And the game is so good. You are watching the Stanley Cup final. The players are so good and they are so good because they get so much coaching and so much advice and expertise everywhere. So when you can bring someone more in, that’s great.

Donovan knows this firsthand. His son, Jorian, was drafted 136th overall by the Senators last week.

Now Donovan’s former teammate Redden will help Jorian continue to elevate his game. In another flashback, Redden remembers Jorian as a tyke, running around the Senators locker room.

“I played a year with Shean (2007-08) and I’m still laughing, because his two boys were there,” he said. “And they were just full of energy, kind of like their old man, I guess. It was, anyway, 14 years since I left here, but he’s making a name for himself now and it’s fun to watch.

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