It was a lighter Cory Clouston who gave his final news conference at Scotiabank Place Monday.
Minus the weighty title as coach of the Senators, he actually made not one but two attempts at humour.
For the ultra-serious Clouston, it seemed that was some kind of record.
“No starting goaltender for you,” he said upon greeting the media, making a joke of the first question often asked of him pertaining to the team’s next game. (The irony of it is that because there was no starting goaltender for Clouston far too often, he does not have a next game.)
Later, when asked of his future plans, he said:
“Believe it or not I’ve already had a couple of phone calls ... I don’t know how people get my cell number. My fiancee is expecting in another month ... she told me if I said girlfriend one more time she’d kill me. It’s been 9˝ years, so I better say fiance. Other than that, I’m just going to step back a little bit. I know I can coach at this level.”
Clouston and assistants Greg Carvel and Brad Lauer were informed their services were no longer required Saturday at the airport, as soon as the team’s charter returned from the season’s last game in Boston. GM Bryan Murray explained that he wasted no time because he knew the coaches were anxious to know if all the speculation had any substance, and that he also wanted to give the three men a head start, on others suffering the same fate, toward future opportunities.
“It’s a decision Bryan made and I’m fine with that,” Clouston said when asked about being hung at the hangar. “We didn’t talk a whole lot (about the reasons for his dismissal), because of the circumstances. Bryan said it was a decision he had made that he felt was best for the organization, and I accept that.
“Obviously disappointed,” Clouston added of his reaction to the news. “We felt as a staff that the team had played very well the last 27 games under difficult circumstances. Would have loved to have had an opportunity to move forward with this hockey club.
“I think today, if we were going to the playoffs, we’d be a good club. We’d be a team that could do some damage.”
Clouston lost his job because of communication problems.
He didn’t connect with his players — and he didn’t have any magic words that could keep Pascal Leclaire healthy or help Brian Elliott stop a puck. If only he had Craig Anderson as his goalie all season.
But Murray said Monday he couldn’t trade for a capable puckstopper earlier because he didn’t have the cap room. Unloading Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly allowed him to afford Anderson.
“The joke was, were we going to sign Jason Spezza’s brother to a contract? He played more in net than Pascal the first three months,” said Clouston. “We didn’t have the goaltending. Not to blame Brian. He was never supposed to be a starting goaltender. Pascal was supposed to be our guy. He was paid to be our guy, and unfortunately he wasn’t able to do that.”
Clouston said he wouldn’t have done anything different in his dealings with the players. And he doesn’t believe they quit on him.
“Were there great days with every player? Absolutely not. There are going to be guys who are pissed off at you because you sat them. Sometimes you make decisions that are best for the 20 guys instead of the one individual.
“Other than that, for the 2˝ years I thought our guys played hard,” he added, stating there was only about a “24-25 game span” that the players didn’t perform the way he wanted.
“I thought we overachieved last year. Last year we were supposed to be 28th or 27th in the league, Maybe this year was the year we should have been predicted at that, I don’t know.”
Was it fun to come to work everyday.
“Yeah it was,” he said. “I don’t want to say fun, because I don’t use that term, but it was satisfying. There were some ups and downs, but overall the people I worked with made it fun.”