Coach right shoes for Sens' dress

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

It is officially safe for Cory Clouston to check out of the Ottawa hotel he's been living in the last two months.

But will he?

"I don't know," Clouston said yesterday, through a grin, after losing the interim tag and being formally introduced as the ninth coach in Senators' modern-day history. "I'm getting comfortable there."

That's not exactly true, from everything we know about the man. Clouston is only really comfortable when he's working. Which means when he's at the rink, where he's been known to spend a night, anyway.

Oh, he's also comfortable talking hockey and harness racing. But never about himself.

So in realizing his longtime goal of becoming an NHL coach, minus the tag, Clouston was unwilling or unable to easily describe what he was feeling inside. As usual, he gave the credit for the team's success over the last 30 games to the players.

"That was never my focus, never my concern," he said of the new contract that will put a few hundred grrr in his pockets over the next couple of years. "I was brought in here to win games and help this team get back on track, and that's no different."

Of course, the Senators have been mostly off track since their ride to the Stanley Cup final 22 months ago. And that's despite having a roster that should have had a repeat run.

Since the first coming of Bryan Murray (the sequel needed longer to be effective) the Senators have not had the right coach. They've had capable coaches, but, in sharing an analogy we were given yesterday, sometimes a good pair of shoes just doesn't go with a good dress.

Clouston is the right match for this Senators team.

Who knew?

Yet yesterday, Eugene Melnyk spoke like turning to a no-name brand less than two years out of junior hockey was the grand plan or something.

"It's not traditional, and to me, I like doing not traditional (things)," explained the owner. "If you don't take risks, then you're never going to succeed. Anybody that just takes the traditional route will ultimately be mediocre.

"You can hire somebody who has a nice resume, that has done this and that, but we needed to change, and a fresh mind ... Going outside the box is something that I'm use to. And this was outside the box."

So why didn't they go outside the box before hiring Craig Hartsburg to coach the team last summer? Because they didn't realize Clouston was the right shoes for this dress, that's why.

That, and they couldn't have imagined he was ready to dance on the big stage.

Hockey is hockey, but coaching in the NHL involves more than just knowing the game and communicating with players.

"I've said it before, the biggest difference is this right here, the media," Clouston said when asked about taking the final big step up the ranks. "Just getting used to that, getting used to the scrutiny these players are put under. I'm impressed with how they handle it. It's not easy to play in a centre like this, that's so hockey crazy. It's great for the guys, they enjoy it, but this is probably the biggest difference, how much media attention is on everybody.

"I think that's great. It shows the passion in the community, how important this team is to the community. If you're planning on coaching in Canada, in a major city, this is what it involves. You can be in a situation in some communities and teams in the (U.S.) where two or three guys show up.

"This is what it's all about."

Somebody sell this guy a house.

ICE CHIPS

At Tuesday's game against Boston on a scouting mission, Doug Armstrong, the GM for Canada's entry at this year's world championship, said he was looking at five Senators. He also said that both goalies, Alex Auld and Brian Elliott, were on his radar. "Any time you get the opportunity to be considered to represent your country, it's exciting," Auld, who has played well in making four straight starts, said yesterday. "Especially in a hockey country like Canada, it's obviously an honour to be thought of and mentioned. It's nice to hear, and we'll see." ... The Senators season is ending too soon for all of them, especially rookie Jesse Winchester. He's just starting to roll. Winchester, the team's fourth-line centre, has played more than 11 minutes and had an assist in each of the last two games. He was one of the three stars Monday in Montreal, and he could have been again Tuesday vs. Boston. "I've been trying to play this way for a long time, just lately I've had some better fortune with my linemates and our line has scored," said Winchester.


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