Clouston offers bench strength

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

After 11 months on the job, Cory Clouston can allow himself the occasional easy breath.

This is not to suggest he should feel comfortable in his job as Senators coach, but Clouston can borrow an old line from ex-Beatle Ringo Starr and believe that he has at least "passed the audition."

Despite last night's loss to the Colorado Avalanche, Clouston has a respectable 39-27-8 record over his tenure as Ottawa's ninth bench boss. With 86 points in 74 games, he'd be on pace to make the playoffs over a full season's schedule, considering it took 93 points to qualify in the Eastern Conference last season.

But while he's an intensely dedicated and knowledgeable hockey man who has the team buying into his system, there are still parts of Clouston's game that need work.

For one, the next time a Senator is injured by a hit he clearly has issues with, Clouston might want to come out with something other than the "no comment" he offered when both Shean Donovan and Daniel Alfredsson went down earlier this season.

He might instead want to stand up for his fallen players.

It's understandable that, as a rookie coach, Clouston doesn't want to criticize referees in the papers. It could get him fined by the league and in hot water with his owner or GM. But to say a Matt Cooke is a chicken crap player and his knee-on-knee hit against Donovan was a chicken crap move is not going to get him in trouble with anyone of any consequence.

And judging by his gestures immediately after the incident, he'd only be giving his honest opinion.

Same thing if he calls out Craig Adams for what he obviously felt was a high and cheapshot-ish hit on Alfredsson. If Clouston didn't believe that, he wouldn't have zipped his lip when asked about the incident the next day.

If anything, going to bat for his players like that will earn him even more of their respect. They'll appreciate Clouston publicly stating what they are privately saying.

In turn, perhaps they'll be more likely to go through the wall for him come crunch time.

Clouston has shown potential for success at the NHL level. But yeah, he still has to hone his coaching skills a bit.

DON.BRENNAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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