Cory Clouston has turned out to be the solution.
Eyebrows were raised across the league when the Senators passed on former NHL coaches Bob Hartley, John Tortorella, Pat Quinn and Marc Crawford to install the 39-year-old Clouston from their AHL affiliate in Binghamton behind the Ottawa bench on Feb. 2.
But since taking over for the fired Craig Hartsburg, Clouston has compiled a 5-1-2 record. The Senators may not make the playoffs, but as the Canucks arrive in town tonight to visit Scotiabank Place, Ottawa has its confidence back and that's good news.
"I didn't know him from a hole in the ground when we brought him into Binghamton (in 2007), but I knew from watching his teams in Kooteney (in the WHL) that they were very well coached," said Senators assistant GM Tim Murray. "They were always in the top third in the league in special teams (and) I never thought they had a lot of talent in Kooteney when he was there.
"He just worked with what he had and did the best with what he had. He went down to Binghamton in a bad situation and made the best of it. The players didn't necessarily like him, but that certainly didn't bother me and it doesn't necessarily bother him. If they don't like him for the right reasons, you're in good shape."
Murray said Clouston has looked at the club's talent to transform the Senators into a team that dictates the play and doesn't sit back waiting for the opposition to get offensive chances.
"It supports the talent we have. I don't know if we're high-flying team, but we play a very aggressive style," said Murray. "Guys like (Jason) Spezza, (Daniel) Alfredsson, (Dany) Heatley and (Antoine) Vermette and all these other guys that can score, are creating turnovers.
"The turnovers are creating chances for them. When we were sitting back, we just weren't scoring. We weren't creating chances at all. We were probably trying to win 2-1 and I don't think our guys were suited to that (style). I don't think they really enjoyed that."
Clouston has moved quickly to change the club's approach.
"We play a different style completely," said Murray. "Up to this point, it has worked. Teams are going to adapt and they're going to watch video. But, after one or two games, it got around the league pretty quickly that we're a lot more aggressive team. He's instilled confidence."
Binghamton callup Ryan Shannon had good reason to be pleased with his two-goal performance against the Avs. He hadn't scored in seven games since being recalled and admitted he was pressing to try to put the puck in the net. "I was pressing a little bit, trying to force shots and trying to shoot too hard," said Shannon, who has been playing with C Mike Fisher and RW Nick Foligno. "I just kind of relaxed a little bit and found the net. It feels really good." Clouston has liked what he's seen from the 25-year-old Shannon, who was dealt to the Senators in exchange for D Lawrence Nycholat in September. Shannon had 10 goals and 25 assists in 36 games with the Baby Sens. When Clouston arrived from Bingo, he wanted somebody familiar with his style. "He played well for me right from the start of the season down in Binghamton," said Clouston. "Since he's been recalled, he's been one of our best players. He's got great energy, he's smart, he cycles the puck well and he's basically done what he did for us down there. Every line he plays on, he makes better."
PICK IN THE HOUSE
University of Denver D Patrick Wiercioch, the Senators'second-round draft pick (No. 42 overall) last June, was on hand for the club's loss to the Avs. Wiercioch, a 6-foot-4, 185-lb. Maple Ridge, B.C., native who attended Team Canada's training camp in December, has 10 goals and 15 assists in 26 games this season. "We're going to see how things go (at school before deciding whether to turn pro). I know I need to get a lot bigger and stronger, whether I come in next year, the year after or the year after that," said Wiercioch, who is in his first season with the Pioneers.