Sens Clou in to Clouston

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Senators GM Bryan Murray's gamble has paid off for he and coach Cory Clouston.

The Senators signed the 39-year-old to a two-year deal yesterday, removing the interim tag he held since taking over for the fired Craig Hartsburg on Feb. 2.

Clouston's success since being brought up from Binghamton of the AHL may have saved Murray's job, said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

"I'll give (Murray) a mulligan on (Hartsburg)," said Melnyk. "At the end of day, you have to take a shot. (Murray) took a shot. When he recognized a change was required, he made it. It's a tough call and it's a gutsy move. Thinking about what he did when he hired a rookie coach into the NHL, that is a gutsy move.

"(Murray) put his career on the line ... his career with the Senators on the line. Think about it. He signed up (Clouston) and look where we are today. The only thing that a lot of people say is, 'Should we have done it earlier?' It was a tough call when we made it. A lot of times, you can simply let the season go and make the change. To do it, when we did, and have these kinds of results, is encouraging for next year."

Clouston, who arrived with only 18 months of coaching experience in the AHL, has brought the Senators back to respectability, posting a 19-10-3 record going into tonight's final home game against the Devils at Scotiabank Place.

"We wanted to see what this team is capable of doing and I think we've shown what this team is capable of doing," said Clouston. "It's not just one individual. It's a team effort. It starts with the players and the coaching staff and myself and all of other people in the organization. You can't do it by yourself.

"I look at the dedication our players have given the last 30-plus games and they deserve the credit. They're out there working hard and they're out there battling every night. They're the ones who are under scrutiny more than anybody and the pressure that they've felt.

"Many of the comments and things that have been written about these guys are not true. The true colours of this team have shown. The future is bright and we know there's some areas we have to get better. What we've accomplished in the last couple of months is going to give us a real indication of what to expect next year."

Murray said he was never concerned about his job.

"I don't worry about that stuff very much," said Murray. "I didn't worry about a rookie coach. I didn't worry about anything other than can we turn this team into what we think it is. I was convinced coming out of last summer that we had a competitive hockey team. People don't lose their ability to play the game when they're young. I've seen the highs of lot of these players.

"Watching Cory, and the way he dealt with the players, and the way he made them practise hard, his accountability was be responsible on the ice or you don't get on the ice. The message he sent at that point was: This is a guy that can coach at the NHL level."

While the team's run of 11 straight post-season appearances will come to an end, Melnyk thinks it's just a one-year blip.

"The expectations are high and I believe (Clouston) is going to deliver," said Melnyk.


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