OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators will be continuing their rebuild with a new coaching staff.
Cory Clouston was fired after the team wrapped up a disappointing season with a 3-1 loss in Boston on Saturday afternoon. Assistants Greg Carvel and Brad Lauer were also let go.
The Senators finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 32-40-10 record—a distant 19 points out of a playoff spot.
“Just simply based on performance over the course of the year, we felt that a change was necessary,” Senators general manager Bryan Murray told the team’s official website.
The move came one day after Murray received a three-year contract extension from owner Eugene Melnyk. Clouston is the third coach fired by Murray since he left the job himself to become GM after helping the Senators reach the Stanley Cup final in 2007.
“It’s always difficult,” said Murray. “Coaches get the finger pointed at them more maybe than they should, but in this case we felt … we had a competitive hockey team and for whatever reason we didn’t play to the level that we thought or we expected.
“As a result, changes have to be made.”
Clouston has been on the hot seat for much of the season.
Many started calling for a change in the nation’s capital after the Senators looked flat in a 5-1 loss to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year’s Day. Another low point came soon after on Jan. 11, when Ottawa extended its winless skid to six games by dropping an ugly 6-0 decision to the Bruins.
With the season going nowhere, Murray dealt away veterans Mike Fisher, Alex Kovalev, Chris Kelly, Chris Campoli and Jarkko Ruutu before the trade deadline. He also flipped goalies with Colorado, shipping out Brian Elliott for Craig Anderson, who helped get the Senators back winning.
While that good stretch earned a vote of confidence for some in the organization—Murray was kept on and Anderson signed a US$12.75-million, four-year contract extension last month—it wasn’t enough to save Clouston’s job.
“Over a little period of time, we certainly evaluated what was going on prior to the trading deadline,” said Murray. “We saw that we had to do things to just try to recover from the way the early part of the year had gone. It’s been a process over a period of time.”
Clouston, 41, replaced Craig Hartsburg as head coach on Feb. 2, 2009. He was in his second season as coach of the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators when he was given the promotion.
Ottawa missed the playoffs in 2008-09 and some players chafed under Clouston’s coaching style, including Dany Heatley who demanded a trade that summer. He was eventually shipped to San Jose.
The Senators bounced back last year as Clouston guided the team to a 44-32-6 mark in his first full season behind the bench. Ottawa reached the post-season but fell in six games to Pittsburgh in the first round.
Clouston had a 95-83-20 record overall with the Senators.
Murray said the team will start searching for a replacement soon.
“We’ll certainly step back for a few days or a few weeks and wait and see who becomes available,” said Murray. “At some time, probably in late April, we’ll start talking to people.”
The GM is scheduled to meet with the media on Monday morning when the players return to Scotiabank Place to clean out their lockers.