So I admit it might be a little early in the season to be making these types of comparisons – especially when they involve comparing anyone to Jacques Martin. After all, Cory Clouston does own a .543 winning percentage since he took over the Ottawa Senators’ bench in 2008-2009.
However (at least on paper) this edition of the Senators is arguably one of the more talented editions of the team since the 2007 Cup year. Three games in, the team’s record is a deplorable 0-2-0-1. Although it is early in the season, as noted previously, there appear to be two major causes for concern (both of which can be directly or indirectly linked to coaching).
First, the guys who should be scoring are not. One potential explanation for this might be Clouston’s ‘Jacques-like’ line combinations. Of note, Nick Foligno continues to get consistent top-6 minutes and plenty of power play time. Conversely, Peter Regin has been playing on the fourth-line alongside Zach Smith and Ryan Shannon/Jesse Winchester (Havlat playing with Vanner anyone?). In addition, Clouston continues to go status quo with the Ruutu-Kelly-Neil line. Despite this line having been the best/most-productive in the early going (and in no way am I suggesting that it be broken up right away), it cannot be allowed to remain intact at the expense of the top two lines. Second, the power play is an abomination (as noted in a previous post by Graeme). Although this is Greg Carvel’s responsibility, Clouston has to be involved in the diagramming and tactics to a certain extent as well – consequently, some of the responsibility for the sagging power play falls on him. (Don’t even get me started on the Gonchar/Karlsson clusterf*** at the point preventing any good one-timers)
This being said, I am a fan of Clouston’s apparent emphasis on accountability and work ethic. However, I am starting to question the extent to which his coaching style may have transformed an otherwise moderately talented group of players into a system team. In other words, has Clouston’s regime prioritized execution and tactics at the expense of talent development and swagger/creativity?
Senators fans endured Jacques Martin’s system teams for too long (more specifically in the playoffs). Otherwise talented teams that were constrained by over-coaching and game plans. This was also in a era where the NHL was a more defensively oriented league in which system teams could do quite well at the expense of talent. However, the NHL is now reflective of a league where talent, skill, and speed are the keys to victory. I for one, refuse to believe that the Senators are any worst than the 8th most talented team in the eastern conference. I also believe that the emerging trends in recent losses are reflective of coaching-level factors. Such factors, might also be indicative of negative long term trends insofar as constraining the talent on the team.
So is Clouston ‘Jacques 2.0′? Probably not, but it is something to think about…