Cory Clouston made one final plea to keep his job.
With Senators owner Eugene Melnyk set to arrive Thursday for the club’s final home game against the Montreal Canadiens, the embattled coach told reporters he’s hopeful he’ll be back behind the bench next season.
While the chances are slim that the 41-year-old Clouston will get a contract extension, that didn’t stop him from extolling the virtues of the job he’s done in just over two years with the Senators.
Thursday will likely be the last time Clouston stands behind the Senators’ bench in Ottawa.
“I think the team is where we want it to be, at this time, and we’ve got a lot of positives going into the summer,” said Clouston Wednesday. “We’re excited about the draft and we’re excited about the young guys coming up.
“Hopefully, I’ll be part of that, but like I said, that’s something I can’t control right now.”
Asked to evaluate his own performance, Clouston offered up no shortage of reasons why he should be retained. He pointed to the success of the young players down the stretch after the club cleaned house at the deadline.
“Myself and my staff feel we’ve done all we can to put this team in a position to win every night,” said Clouston. “Obviously, we got off to a really tough start. Things went in a different direction.
“I look at the way the team is playing right now, the success we’re having and the young guys with the energy they’re bringing and the structure they’re bringing, I’m very happy with what’s going on both on and off the ice.
“When you look at the players that we traded — what they’re doing — I think Mike (Fisher) is having a real good last part of the season (in Nashville), but when I look at the young guys we brought in, I think we have 20 goals between (Bobby) Butler, (Erik) Condra and (Colin) Greening. You can’t replace that.”
If GM Bryan Murray, who is also in the final year of his contract, is part of the picture next season, it’ll be up to him to decide what’s going to happen to Clouston. The belief is the Senators aren’t happy with the job Clouston has done.
Melnyk said in an interview with The Fan 590 in Toronto he’s already decided what’s going to happen with Murray and Clouston in the off-season.
Clouston said he doesn’t know when he’ll learn his fate.
“No idea,” said Clouston. “I’m not worried about that. I’m just trying to win a game (Thursday). That’s all we’re focusing on with the team. That’s all I can worry about. That’s all I know right now.
“I’ve got a game and we’re going to try to win that as much as we can.”
Clouston didn’t agree with a suggestion — when pressed — that the Senators’ late-season success has allowed the club to salvage something out of this season. Instead, he pointed to injuries and goaltending as factors in the team’s slow start to the campaign.
“I don’t think we were horrific as a coaching staff to start (the year),” said Clouston. “We had a lot of injuries. When you’re playing without guys like (Alex) Kovalev, (Milan) Michalek, (Daniel) Alfredsson, (Sergei) Gonchar, a lot of guys weren’t 100% healthy.
“We had goaltending issues. A lot of pressure was put on Brian Elliott. It’s tough to do that. He was brought here as a backup. There’s a lot of things that ... we were practising with half a squad, for the most part, early in the season because of our health situation.
“It’s tough enough to win at this level, let alone play in games if you’re not able to practise with a team.”