When Cory Clouston steps behind the bench Wednesday for the Ottawa Senators game in Buffalo, things will be hugely different than they were a year ago.
Clouston will mark his first anniversary as Senators coach and the team he guides now is not at all the same as the one he took over on Feb. 3, 2009. First of all, the Senators are a solid playoff team and a contender in the Eastern Conference, they’re better defensively and they’re feeling a lot better about the future.
And Clouston himself is no longer a desperate choice and an NHL unknown. He has proved beyond any doubt that he is a good coach at this level and has the ability to get the most out of his team. That much was evident this season in particular when they started the season without Dany Heatley and key players such as Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Anton Volchenkov, Pascal Leclaire and Milan Michalek went down with injuries.
Since taking over a Senators team that was hopelessly out of the playoff race last year, Clouston has compiled a record of 50-32-8 with the Senators for a .600 points percentage. He has them currently in fifth place in the East and has managed to distance the Senators a little bit from the pack of teams that are killing each other on a nightly basis in their pursuit of a playoff spot.
Clouston has even garnered some support for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach, and with good reason. Since Clouston took over the Senators, only seven NHL coaches have compiled better records than Clouston. Just so you know, they are Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals (.703), Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks (.686), Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks (.680), Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks (.686), Joe Sacco of the Colorado Avalanche (.660), Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins (.659) and Jacques Lemaire of the Minnesota Wild/New Jersey Devils (.616).
Notice a trend here? With the exception of Sacco, each of the other guys has a whole lot more talent at his disposal than Clouston does.
The Senators, meanwhile, are 22-6-4 against the Sabres going into tonight’s game, so another win for Clouston on his anniversary could be coming. It would be fitting, but just another one in what could be many for a coach who has certainly earned his kudos in one short year.
This article also appeared in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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