Experts say Senators can’t afford to go young with their next coach ... they should look for experience ... so Who’s Next?
The Buffalo Sabres coach is the top free agent available this summer, but he likely isn’t going anywhere after 13 seasons behind the bench. It’s going to be up to Ruff, 51, to decide if wants to move because owner Terry Pegula has been definitive about keeping Ruff. If he does move, Ruff has a strong relationship with GM Bryan Murray from their days together with the Panthers. Ruff would make the most sense.
This is a guy who has a short shelf life. He’s done a good job with the Rangers, but many wonder just how long he is going to be there. Tortorella can wear on players, although, he won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’d crack the whip without a doubt and don’t doubt his ability to work with young players. He can do it and get the most out of them.
He has been in owner Eugene Melnyk’s stable since he bought the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and that’s why Cameron is mentioned as a top candidate. It doesn’t make sense to thrust him into this job. He needs time to develop and his act works well in junior. Not sure it will work here. The betting is he’ll be an assistant on the club’s staff. The meltdown in the world junior final vs. the Russians didn’t help.
He has done a great job with the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton and has had to deal with several roster changes through the course of the season. He’s not afraid to hold the young players accountable and has experience from the New Jersey Devils organization. The question: Is Kleinendorst ready to take the next step? The Senators tried this route with Clouston and it didn’t work.
Yes, the Vancouver Canucks are going into the playoffs as one of the NHL’s best teams, but if they make an early exit, then Vigneault could be on thin ice. The expectations are high for the Canucks and he has to take them on a long run. Vigneault is from the area, spent a long time behind the Hull Olympiques bench, is a former Senators assistant and has shown he can get the most out of players.
WORTH A LOOK
Kevin Dineen: The Portland Pirates coach has had other chances and has always been passed up.
Randy Cunneyworth: Former Senators captain has done a good job running the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
Bob Hartley: He nearly got the job when Hartsburg was hired and, in hindsight, probably should have.
WHERE DID IT GO WRONG
ACCOUNTABILITY: This was why Clouston was hired and he didn’t live up to the billing. In Binghamton, he wasn’t regarded as a players’ coach. In fact, many couldn’t stand him and hoped he would fall flat on his face with the Senators. He didn’t, at first. Clouston held Ottawa players accountable until this season. He lost a lot of respect with his handling of Alex Kovalev. He put him on the fourth line for one shift and then immediately moved him back to the top line. At that point, Clouston’s days were likely numbered.
PERSONALITY: A coach has to have a little fun once in a while and has to have a feel for what’s happening with his players. Clouston’s decision not to allow Nick Foligno to participate in a Jan. 18 shootout with his father Mike on the Anaheim bench is a shining example of his lack of people skills. “I don’t think he does it on purpose, I just think he coaches with blinders on,” is the way one NHL executive described Clouston. Every so often you have to let the players enjoy the game. Clouston doesn’t get it.
BENCH MANAGEMENT: This is Clouston’s greatest weakness. There were too many nights he didn’t have the right people on the ice at the right times and it turned out to be costly. The Senators have led the league in “too many men on the ice” penalties and that’s a result of not getting the right message from the man behind the bench. Players have spoken privately about the fact they don’t know who is supposed to be on the ice and confusion from the man in charge.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR CLOUSTON?
He’ll likely either have to accept a position as a coach in the AHL or go back to the WHL. His chances of being an NHL assistant aren’t good, which means it’ll be back to riding the buses for Clouston.