Clouston’s Last Week?

With less than a week left in the NHL’s regular season, it has become commonplace to drop trou and dump on Cory Clouston’s doorstep. Considering how the season has unfurled, it’s a natural reaction towards a coach who:

  • Presided over a team that will be hard pressed to surpass the franchise record of fewest goals in a season;
  • Despite his constant line juggling, could not manufacture one 20 goal scorer from one of the league’s highest paid rosters;
  • Insisted upon using Sergei Gonchar on the power play’s  left point for a large portion of the season;
  • Hours after being publicly criticized by Alexei Kovalev for making him a scapegoat, rewarded Kovalev by promoting him to the first line after one shift.
  • Didn’t put players in a position to succeed. Who would have known that offensive apt players like Shannon or Regin would have difficult times putting up points alongside Jesse Winchester?
  • Regularly absolved himself of any blame.

Whether it was a goal post or a goaltender’s inability to make a timely save, it’s always been something or someone else’s fault. Never his system. And rarely his responsibility.

I would never classify myself as a proponent of Clouston but even I will acknowledge that he wasn’t necessarily given the best circumstances to work with this season. As often as I’ve heard Bryan Murray or The Euge say that they thought they had a good team on paper this year, it was one of those what if kinds of teams that needed many things to go right for it to have a chance…

  • If Pascal Leclaire stays healthy…
  • If Kovalev and Michalek rebound strong off of major knee surgery…
  • If Alfredsson can stay healthy and avoid regression…
  • If Jason Spezza can become a franchise center…
  • If Mike Fisher, Peter Regin and Nick Foligno can prove that they’re second line players…
  • If Sergei Gonchar can effectively pair up with Chris Phillips and can compensate for the loss of Volchenkov…

On paper, that’s a lot of shit that had to go right. (Note: I don’t even want to know where this team would be without Jason Spezza.) But hey, those were the cards that Clouston was dealt and now that fans are getting caught up with the team’s recent string of success, I think it’s hilarious that Clouston’s future with the organization is in doubt while Murray’s appears safe.

Looking at one of Bruce Garrioch’s blogs over at at Off the Posts recently,

A week left of listening to coach Cory Clouston trot out every excuse in the book for why the Senators weren’t successful as the club prepares to play its final three games of the regular season.

Clouston said recently he’ll accept some responsibility for the club’s record. That’s big of him.

Murray has been the most active and aggressive GM in the league since February. When I spoke to Melnyk then, he told me the club had a plan in place and decisions on Murray/Clouston would be made at the end of the year.

Murray has put a lot of what’s going to take next in place already. There is still work to be done, but if you really take a close look at next year you can already see the roster is taking shape.

It all starts with Craig Anderson in net.

Yeah, it starts with Craig Anderson – a luxury that Clouston wasn’t afforded until late in the season. It’s pretty god-damned amazing what can happen with a capable goaltender and an invigoration of youth that removes the complacency that plagued this team for the bulk of the season.

Hell, Clouston said it himself, “When you look at it on paper, this team is not going to out-talent or outperform the opposition if we don’t do those little things. We have to stress (those), we have to be structured and playing hard for 60 minutes.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I think Murray did make out pretty well with his deadline moves. However, I do feel that few are willing to concede that it’s much easier for a GM to be a seller than a buyer.  Shit, just look at the praise that Garth Snow received two seasons ago for the moves that he made at that year’s trade deadline. And making excuses isn’t something that’s uniquely exclusive to Clouston. How often have we heard from Murray that Leclaire’s health or the previous regime have negatively contributed to the current situation? (Wait, don’t answer that!)

The point that I’m trying to make here is that the circumstances pertaining to Clouston’s departure were related to a roster that was constructed by Bryan Murray. And to add insult to injury, whenever fans will look back on a Clouston/Murray era that was earmarked by mediocrity, fans will laud Murray for his rebuild movement. Not realizing that the legacy that Clouston had a bigger part in it than many will give credit for. If it wasn’t for his treatment and disregard of Dany Heatley’s ego, the team would still be stuck with that albatross of a contract. Considering how awesome Heatley’s production has been this season (25G, 37A) just imagine how good he’ll be by the time his contract expires in 2014.

Alfie Done For the Year

With news this afternoon that Daniel Alfredsson has decided to shut it down for the season, fans have one less reason to worry about the captain risking his health in a meaningless game. Now that this decision has been made, Alfie will continue his rehab in hopes that he can avoid surgery altogether. Considering how slow his body has been to respond to this chronic injury, I have a hard time believing that surgery won’t be required.

With the NHL Entry Draft Lottery, the Entry Draft itself, the unconfirmed futures of Clouston and Murray, another inevitable and embarrassing Melnyk moment, it’s as if this offseason didn’t have enough sub-plots to follow already.

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