Murray's last shot with Sens

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Eugene Melnyk is now paying two head coaches not to head-coach the Senators. If Cory Clouston doesn't pan out, Melnyk will also most certainly be paying a general manager not to general-manage.

It's hard to imagine Bryan Murray being allowed to return to his post for the third and final season of his contract if he has to make a fifth coaching change before camp in September.

Since the Senators' run to the Stanley Cup final, John Paddock, Murray, Craig Hartsburg and now Clouston have all had a spin at the coaching wheel, with Clouston the interim guy without the dirty 'I' word actually being used.

"Cory is here for the rest of the year at this point in time," Murray said. "It's not necessarily a fair role to have, but it's a role I felt at this time that we wanted to offer him. We'll all, I would think, at the end of the year take a look where we're going and what we want to do.

"I'm hoping it's certainly longer, and I suspect it will be."

Translation: If Clouston shows signs of turning around this sorry team, he'll get the nameplate on his door. If not, he'll just get the door.

The immediate reaction to the shuffle was that the promotion of Clo-who?-ston is a money saver. Murray shot that theory to pieces.

"Let me assure you I had options in coaching candidates," he said, and if you play the tape of these quotes backwards you will hear the words Pat Quinn and Bob Hartley. "I had some veteran guys I was thinking about, considering, and Mr. Melnyk certainly allowed me to make the decision.

'MAX PERFORMANCE'

"My recommendation was Cory. He's been two years in the organization. He knows our players, he knows our prospects, and I know he gets max performance out of our players in the American Hockey League.

"I asked one of his players the other day what he thought of Cory, and he said, 'Well, he's got this winning mentality, which means he's not very nice some days.'

"I kind of liked that answer."

Besides, things didn't work out so hot for the last GM who hired a veteran coach around here, right John Muckler?

Murray is no dummy. He was not about to make the same mistake.

Meanwhile, the most frequent cry in the nation's capital was for Murray's scalp. As the man in charge of hockey operations, how does he not pay for this mess?

It's an easy answer, really.

For one thing, owners rarely change GMs in mid-season. For another, Melnyk has firmly and emphatically declared Murray his guy. If Melnyk were to fire Murray now, it'd be hard to take the big guy at his word anymore. People might even start thinking he wasn't serious about his belief that the Senators will still make the playoffs.

Besides, Melnyk has no other qualified hockey man. And make no mistake, Murray, who because of his Shawville roots has a lot of friends in these parts, might well be the best hockey man this region has ever produced.

He has gaffed since succeeding Muckler, for sure. But when you're listing his mistakes, don't include the long-term signings of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher. Given the green light by the boss, any other GM would have tied up those guys as well.

Murray's biggest fault is he just hasn't been very good at hiring coaches here. He hasn't found the right man to be in the right time at the right place -- even though that guy lives in the mirror above Murray's bathroom sink.

Yes, the best coach this team could have brought on yesterday was Murray himself. He'd love to do the job, too, except he's been convinced he's getting too old for it. Rubbish.

"My future is long, there's no question," Murray joked to a question aimed at having him discuss his job security. "You don't have to worry about my future."

In a more serious moment, Murray was asked about his own accountability for the team's downward spiral.

"Everything that happens here, I take full responsibility for. I took this job, I've taken other jobs, to be accountable and obviously we want Cory, myself and the whole team to succeed. That's our plan."

Clouston's first NHL job hinges on the team's ability to carry out that plan. Likely, so does Murray's last.


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