Sens coach fails to win vote of confidence

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:31 PM ET

Cory Clouston is on the firing line.

The Senators coach could be facing a must-win situation this weekend against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning to save his job.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday after practice, GM Bryan Murray didn’t give the embattled Clouston a vote of confidence, read the riot act to the players and admitted owner Eugene Melnyk isn’t happy.

The belief in NHL circles is that if Clouston is let go, Murray could go back behind the bench.

“I’m not going to answer a question like that because I don’t know,” Murray said when asked if Clouston would finish the season. “We go to Chicago. We come home and play Tampa. We go on the road the following week.

“I can’t answer that honestly and I’ve talked to the staff about that. We’re all in a position where we have to do a better job.”

Murray denied a report he called Melnyk and asked to fire Clouston earlier this season. There was speculation Melnyk said no.

“First thing that I’d like to clear up that is wrong, is that I never called Eugene Melnyk and suggested that we fire the coach,” Murray said. “I don’t know where that started. I just know you guys (media) wanted the truth out there. And that is factual.”

Clouston is trying to block all the noise.

“My job hasn’t changed,” said Clouston. “My focus is always going to be the exact same thing it has always been: That’s to try to win games.”

Murray met with the coaching staff and players Wednesday. He told them to get their act together.

Murray admitted he has tried to make trades, but can’t find the right fit. He will decide later if the Senators are going to add at the Feb. 28 trade deadline or send players packing.

“Am I happy? I feel for the fans. I feel for the organization right now,” said Murray. “We should be a better team. I think our performance in some of the games lately hasn’t been nearly adequate.

“I’ve met with the coaches and I’ve met with the players. I have indicated we aren’t happy, we are very unhappy. What I believe we’re all obligated to do in this business is work hard and to put our best foot forward as many days as possible. I don’t think we’ve done that to the level we could have.”

Outside a playoff position as they hit the mid-season point Friday, Murray said he has spoken with Melnyk and the owner’s not pleased — especially after the 5-1 loss to the Leafs at home Saturday.

“I talk to Eugene regularly and I think I’ve stated none of us are happy,” said Murray, who told reporters he elected to take a one-year deal last spring. “He’s realistic with where we’re going and what we’re doing. He wants to win every night. All of us do.

“We’re very much in the discussion mode about what we can and can’t do and how we’re going. Losing to Toronto, in particular for him being from Toronto, and for us, we don’t like it. The reaction wasn’t good. The ongoing discussions are OK. He’s not patting me on the back or anything. (But) he’s not so out of it that we have to do drastic things.”

After the weekend, the Senators will look at calling up Robin Lehner from their AHL affiliate in Binghamton to try to solve their goaltending woes.

“I thought he played well in the (world junior) tournament. Do you do it now or do you wait a little bit longer?” said Murray. “What I’d like to do is let him play in Binghamton over the weekend, then see how we do and make a decision based on that.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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