Thursday, April 7, 2011

Clouston's Last Stand

Some interesting comments by (soon to be departing) "Sens insider" Scott MacArthur on the Lee Versage-hosted Team 1200 show this morning about (soon to be departing) coach Cory Clouston.
MacArthur, who is off to Toronto shortly to co-host a show on the new TSN radio network, said that, in his opinion, Clouston doesn't have the capacity to handle different personalities on an NHL team. He has one way, and that way is "his way or the highway".
That kind of attitude sounds great to a lot of fans who already have a deep-seated resentment towards "millionaire athletes", and love nothing more than to see them humbled publicly, but it doesn't actually work in a locker room.
I don't pretend to know what Clouston is like behind closed doors but if a guy like MacArthur, who is as close to the team as anyone else not on the actual payroll, says that Clouston's approach rubbed many players the wrong way, including some guys who "are still on the team" (as opposed to the "bad guys" already gone that Eugene Melnyk bizarrely referred to the other day), then this assessment is probably pretty close to the truth.
Undoubtedly, MacArthur and other journalists close to the team have many off-the-record conversations with players over the course of a season who have had some problems with the way Clouston ran the squad, but those quotes will never see the light of day, as they shouldn't.
Clouston is not the first coach, and he won't be the last, who is unpopular with his players, but you can only get away with it when you get results. If your players don't like you and you don't win, then it's "Good Night, Irene".
Yet, there's been a minor upswell of opinion towards Clouston of late, mirroring his young team's late season rise in the standings.
It makes sense. Clouston has a group of young, hungry players who would go to the wall for any coach they were playing for, whether it was Clouston or Martha Stewart.
It's a tad ironic that Clouston may never have been more right for this team than he is now, just as he is about to get the can tied to him.
The point is, most coaches at a high level can get young players to buy into their system right from the get go. The real tough part is getting veterans, who have enjoyed success in this league without you, to follow your lead and believe in what you are saying.
All NHL teams are run by veterans, whether it's a team like Detroit with a roomful of them, or a team like Ottawa who are basically going with just four guys who have been around the league for a length of time. You think the Edmonton room is run by Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle? Not a chance.
If Clouston can't make believers out of those few veterans, even if he has 18 or 19 kids on his side, then he has no chance. No coach would.
Unfortunately for him, that might be the situation in Ottawa and Clouston looks like he's coached his way out of an NHL job.
It already seems as if it's a foregone conclusion that Dave Cameron is going to be parachuted into the vacant job this summer once his Memorial Cup run with Mississauga is done, but Melnyk isn't saying just yet.
Whoever it is will be faced with the same task as Clouston – getting your leaders to believe in your message. Reactionary fans will be quick to call these  veterans "spoiled", and many have already done so in Ottawa, but it's no different on any NHL team.
Like MacArthur said, these players are the best in the world at what they do, and minor-league style regimentation simply doesn't work at this level.  Players have to be allowed to smile once in a while.
Some of the most serious minded coaches in NHL history knew that. Scotty Bowman knew that. Even Mike Keenan knew that.
Why doesn't Clouston?


Anonymous said...

Nice hatchet job on Clouston. I kinda disagree.

First off, it's too bad Scott MacArthur is leaving, I really enjoyed his takes. But, with the Internet, we'll probably be able to stream TSN radio and still listen to his new playoff show. It'll be like he never left.

As for Clouston, I think that the amount of abuse he's taking is unfair.

Since Christmas, the media's been saying that he ain't coming back. On top of that, there were leaks that the GM wanted to can him.

Through all that, the guy just shows up to work and does the job he's paid to do. I think that he's handled things with dignity and class under some pretty tough circumstances.

I'm not advocating for him to keep his job. I think that it's time to turn the page and start fresh. But, the problems on this team run way deeper than the coach.

You don't see the media going after Murray. They go after Clouston. It all contributes to a dysfunctional atmosphere around the team. I'm sure it affects the way players see their coach, even subconsciously.

It's easier to bash a guy, or lose respect for a guy, that everyone is already bashing. It's easier to focus on the faults, rather than the strengths, of a guy that everyone is bashing.

Again, I'm not saying that the Sens should keep him. I'm saying that there is a much bigger story here, much of which is not his fault.

Clouston came to this team the year Murray was talking about accountability. Remember that. The media were calling the Sens "coach killers". That's the context.

The stage was set. He's the one who's going to hold them accountable. He's the "Little General".

In any case, I think the story is even deeper.

You look at the teams who have sustained success over many years, Detroit, New Jersey, San Jose, and even Ottawa and Colorado until recently.

They've all had a lot of stability and continuity of players.

We had that. Then, in 2004, Muckler fiires Jacques Martin and hires Murray as coach.

C'mon man. Murray was GM in Anaheim and you're telling me that he's going to voluntarily demote himself by taking a coaching job in Ottawa. And, you're telling me that Muckler the GM wants to hire another longtime GM to be his coach.

This has Melnyk written all over it. Melnyk, the new owner, wanted his own people in charge. I think he told the old regime that he wanted Murray to be the coach, and he also told Murray that he would be the new GM in time.

At that point, they were just waiting for Muckler's contract to expire.

Murray takes over, and wants to bring in his own people and his new ways. That destabilizes the organization and its winning ways.

Players start getting confused. The team doesn't play to its potential as a result. The media blames the players. Coaches get blamed. Players get shipped out.

It is what it is. The power struggle at the top cost us our young exciting high powered team.

Time to turn the page and start fresh. New GM and a new coach.

We have some nice pieces. Add a few more (scoring winger for Spezza), and we're back in the mix.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for toeing the party line and assassinating CLouston's character, splending work!

You must be escstatic that lifetime underachiever Murray is back for another three years. At least that makes my purchases for the next three years easier as the team won't be making the playoffs anytime soon!

**** YOU MURRAY!!!!

P.S. Stop siding with the veterans and management and start siding with the coaches, they're the ones that have to deal with the candy asses with a sense of entitlement on this team!

Terry Fortier.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for Melnyk to say that this was an April Fool's joke. I know that it was last Friday, but maybe Melnyk got confused and thought it was this Friday.

C'mon Melnyk, you got us. That was a good one. Now tell us that this is just a joke.

I'm waiting ...