Greg Carvel beat the rush Sunday morning when he dropped by Scotiabank Place to pack up and bring home stuff he’d been accumulating in his office since Aug. 30, 2004.
Talking to him a few hours later would be to get an idea of how emotional the experience was for him.
“It’s tough,” said Carvel, formerly the longest-serving Senators coach, who, like fellow assistant Brad Lauer and bench boss Cory Clouston, was fired by GM Bryan Murray immediately upon return of the team’s charter from the season finale in Boston Saturday. “Like I said to my wife, the hard part of this is that when you’ve been there for seven years and you’re just kind of completely cut off from everything, it feels like a death, where the person was there one day and the next day they’re gone, and you’re not allowed to be part of it anymore.
“For me, it will be a tough transition. For sure.”
That Clouston and half his staff (Rick Wamsley and Luke Richardson were spared) got canned was no shock, not even to Carvel. He had read the speculation for weeks. The Senators finished strongly, winning 15 of their last 27 games, but they still ended up in the Northeast Division basement. Somebody was going to pay.
“I think as a staff we’re more than willing to take our share of the blame,” said Carvel. “There was plenty to go around. I just think we took a lot of blame for the losses, but we never got much credit for the wins.”
Murray didn’t like certain aspects of how Clouston did his job. By also firing Carvel and Lauer, he’s giving the new coach a chance to hire his own staff. Wamsley has another year on his contract and Richardson is a part-timer.
“You guys know Cory well enough, he didn’t take his foot off the gas,” Carvel said in defence of Clouston. “He gave everything, every night. Made sure the team was always completely prepared. Of course there are lots of detractors, you guys all made it real clear you wanted him out ... it’s just frustrating that it had to end this way.”
For Carvel to get turfed doesn’t seem right. He was in charge of the team’s penalty killing and it has been a strength. He thinks that fact didn’t get publicized enough. He may be right.
“Since we traded (goalie) Brian Elliott away (Feb. 18), we had the No. 1 PK in the NHL,” said Carvel. “We were over 90%, which is phenomenal. I don’t feel like the media would ever write that story ... look at Ottawa’s PK, they’re tops in the league since this date, and they’re doing it with young kids.
“Obviously, goaltending was the biggest part of it,” added Carvel, who also gave credit to the work of Ryan Shannon, Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson, who he says is a “tremendous” penalty killer. “But again, it just felt like when Brian Elliott was in the net, the whole team struggled. When Craig Anderson was in the net, the team did pretty well. That provided confidence for the whole group, whereas with Elliott there was almost no confidence because any and every shot had the possibility of going in.”
Carvel holds no animosity toward Murray, who brought him here from Anaheim as his assistant.
“I’ll never say a bad word about Bryan,” said Carvel. “Everything we’ve gone through, and he’s treated me like gold for a long time. He gave me a lot of opportunities.
“I understand why this happened. It’s part of the nature of the beast. It’s just hard to deal with. When you’ve been here a long time, and you give a lot to an organization, it’s just hard to walk away.”
Murray, Clouston and the players will address the media at the rink Monday. The Senators have sent eight players to Binghamton for the AHL playoffs: Zack Smith, Bobby Butler, Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Cody Bass, David Hale, Derek Smith and Andre Benoit.