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 didnt give the embattled Clouston a vote of confidence, read the riot act to the players and admitted owner Eugene Melnyk isnt happy.

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

Im not going to answer a question like that because I dont 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 cant answer that honestly and Ive talked to the staff about that. Were 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 Id like to clear up that is wrong, is that I never called Eugene Melnyk and suggested that we fire the coach, Murray said. I dont 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 hasnt changed, said Clouston. My focus is always going to be the exact same thing it has always been: Thats 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 cant 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 hasnt been nearly adequate.

Ive met with the coaches and Ive met with the players. I have indicated we arent happy, we are very unhappy. What I believe were all obligated to do in this business is work hard and to put our best foot forward as many days as possible. I dont think weve 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 owners not pleased especially after the 5-1 loss to the Leafs at home Saturday.

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

Were very much in the discussion mode about what we can and cant do and how were going. Losing to Toronto, in particular for him being from Toronto, and for us, we dont like it. The reaction wasnt good. The ongoing discussions are OK. Hes not patting me on the back or anything. (But) hes 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 Id 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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