Baby Sens coach wins way into contention for Ottawa job

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:09 AM ET

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Of the “six or seven” candidates a source says Bryan Murray will ultimately interview for the Ottawa Senators coaching job, Kurt Kleinendorst is one.

About that, the Binghamton bench boss insists he has no thoughts. Instead, Kleinendorst says, he goes forward following the advice he gives his players with NHL aspirations.

“If you just do your job every day, you do it up to your ability, you do a good job .. that phone call will one day just come,” the 50-year-old product of Grand Rapids, Minn., said Wednesday morning, a few hours before the B-Sens and Houstons Aeros squared off for Game 3 of the Calder Cup final at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. “That’s the message to the guys. You’ve got to focus on the task at hand. I’m just the same way. I practise what I preach. I mean, if that’s in the cards, then one day my phone will ring.

“I can’t force my phone to ring.”

Murray’s first two interviews, as reported by the Sun's Bruce Garrioch Tuesday, were Kirk Muller and Paul MacLean. Both enticing candidates. Muller is this summer’s sexy pick. After an exceptional, 19-year playing career, the likeable Kingston native has, by all accounts, done a solid job as an assistant in Montreal the past five seasons. Rumours also have him a top candidate to become the next Dallas coach. MacLean, a former Hull Olympique, also had a strong 10-year playing career. In eight seasons as a minor league head coach, he won almost twice as many games as he lost. He’s been an NHL assistant the past eight years, the most recent six in Detroit.

Dave Cameron and Craig MacTavish will have sitdowns with Murray, too.

Kleindendorst has forced his way into the conversation by doing a sensational job in his first season with the Senators. After missing the playoffs the previous five springs, Binghamton not only reached the final for the first time in the franchise’s nine-year history, but also became the first fifth-place finisher to get this far since the 1975 New Haven Nighthawks.

For much of the second half, Kleinendorst had to do without his six or seven best players, as they were on assignment in Ottawa.

“Honestly, it’s more the guys in the locker room than it is me,” he said, commending the core of veterans who led the way. “But (doing without the promoted) was a huge challenge. That might have been a bigger challenge than, if it happens, winning the Cup. We were really depleted for a while. There were a lot of nights when you wouldn’t be able to recognize our lineup. I would never use it as an excuse. The guys were great.”

Kleinendorst deserves credit, too. And the interview with Murray he will soon get.

THIS AND THAT: Kleinendorst affectionately calls Jared Cowen a “mule” on the Binghamton blue line. The 20-year old first-rounder from 2009 played well again Wednesday, which had to be his 100-and-something game of the season, counting exhibitions with the Senators, season in Spokane, world juniors and now the AHL playoffs. The mule is kicking himself for losing “four or five pounds” recently. That would put him about 225. “Here it’s a little bit harder to eat because you’re staying at a hotel and you’ve got to eat out every single meal, and it gets really annoying after a while,” said Cowen. “That’s the hardest thing for me.” ... The return to the lineup of D Derek Smith meant a seat in the stands for Patrick Weircioch, the Senators' 2008 second-round pick who has had his struggles in his first season as a pro ... Fomer QMJHL scoring champ Mike Hoffman is rebounding from a unimpressive first year, too. “If we were to vote now, I’d say he’s probably been, from the beginning of the playoffs to this point, our most improved player,” said Kleinendorst. Hoffman hit the post in the first.

ONE TIMERS: The way he demolished three Aeros in the first period, it’s easy to see why Cody Bass is a fan fave in Bingo ... The instrumental band was nice, I guess, but the B-Sens needed a tone-setter to belt out the anthem. Lyndon Slewidge, where are you? ... After the job he did with the Sea Dogs, doesn’t Gerard Gallant warrant an interview with Murray, his former coach in Detroit? ... Stat ya gotta love: a Houston-Binghamton Cup final pits the city with the fourth largest population (2,257,926) in the U.S. vs. the city that sits 795th on that list at (44,401).


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