|Cory Clouston, who posted a 95-83-20 record during two-plus seasons with the Senators, was relieved of his duties today along with assistant coaches Greg Carvel and Brad Lauer (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
The Cory Clouston era in Ottawa is over.
Just hours after a season-ending loss to the Bruins in Boston, Senators general manager Bryan Murray announced the dismissal of Clouston, along with assistant coaches Brad Lauer and Greg Carvel. Murray said the decision was made based on the performance of a team that entered the season with the belief it was a contender but, at 32-40-10, wound up a disappointing 13th in the Eastern Conference and is headed for the draft lottery.
"We felt that a change was necessary," Murray said, adding "it's always difficult" to make such a decision. "Coaches always get the finger pointed them more than maybe they should, but in this case we felt that all of us — the coaching staff and management — felt, at training camp, that we had a competitive hockey team and for whatever reason, we didn’t play to the level that we thought and expected. As a result, changes have to made."
Since a post-Christmas stretch that saw the Senators win just one of 18 games — essentially killing their playoff hopes — Murray has been tasked with the job of retooling the franchise and taking it in a more youthful direction. Six veterans were dealt away before the Feb. 28 trade deadline and, said Murray, that's when he also began to realize a move also was needed behind the bench.
While the Senators' play improved markedly over the final six weeks of the season — they went 14-9-1 down the stretch and were competitive pretty much every night — it wasn't enough to save Clouston, who had expressed hope in recent days that he would return.
"Over a little period of time, we certainly evaluated what was going on," said Murray, who signed a new three-year contract himself on Friday. "Prior to the trading deadline, we saw that we had to do things to recover from the way the early part of the year had gone. So it’s been a process over a period of time."
The 41-year-old Clouston posted a record of 95-83-20 in his first stint behind a National Hockey League bench, which last just under 2-1/2 seasons. The native of Viking, Alta., was promoted from the Binghamton Senators on Feb. 2, 2009, after Craig Hartsburg was relieved of his coaching duties. Clouston guided the Senators to a playoff berth last season, with Ottawa falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the first round.
Carvel, 40, has been with the Sens as an assistant coach since the 2005-06 season, when he worked alongside Murray on the bench. Lauer, 44, an ex-Senator, was brought on board by Clouston prior to the 2009-10 season.
Murray doesn't expect the search for the 10th coach in modern franchise history to begin in earnest until near the end of this month.
"We’ll certainly step back for a few days here or a few weeks and wait and see who becomes available," he said. "At some time, probably in late April, we’ll start talking to people."