Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Clouston Makes Right Choice
After making 41 saves tonight, many of them spectacular, Alex Auld made coach Cory Clouston look like a savvy veteran decision maker as the Senators came out with a convincing win against the playoff desperate Hurricanes.
While it might have seemed like a no-brainer to start Auld over the struggling rookie Brian Elliott, the politics of the situation probably made that decision a little harder than usual.
Elliott is essentially in an extended audition for the starters role next season and the Senators are all but technically eliminated from the playoffs. After having been pulled multiple times in recent games, Elliott was publicly challenged by Clouston to get more mentally prepared and it wouldn't have been surprising if the coach gave Elliott a chance to prove himself right away.
Instead, Clouston made the right choice to go with Auld.
After all, Elliott is here to learn and ease his way into the NHL, not to put a team on his shoulders and bulldoze his way to the playoffs. By forcing the young netminder into the spotlight, there is a chance that Clouston could needlessly destroy his confidence while earning the team very little in the long run.
Elliott will get his share of games down the stretch but if Auld is getting hot, Clouston would be wise to stick with him until he shows signs of faltering. Even if Elliott was to play every game left on the schedule, it may not be enough to convince Murray that he doesn't need to go out and get a goalie like Nicklas Backstrom or Manny Fernandez this summer.
What's more important is getting the winning culture back in that dressing room and hopefully see that carry over into next season. It looks like they are on their way.
There are a lot of young players on this Senators team that are blossoming under Clouston, including Nick Foligno, Ryan Shannon and Brian Lee. It's not surprising that it will take a little longer for Elliott who's playing the toughest position in hockey.
For now, the organization and the fans will just have to be patient while he learns the ropes and part of that is sitting down when your backup is playing better than you.
With Bryan Murray carrying about 3 defenseman too many, there has been some whispers that either Brendan Bell or Brian Lee will find themselves in Bingo because of their two-way contracts. But if you've been watching the past two weeks, there is no way in hell that Brian Lee is going anywhere.
This guy impresses me more every game. He can skate the puck out of the zone smooth as silk and always seems to be moving his feet with a purpose. Occasionally he makes a bad decision in his own end but he'll get better at that. If he could start getting more shots through from the point, he really reminds me of a young Wade Redden circa 1997.
Does this make Alex Picard trade-bait? He's played one game under Clouston and was quickly shuttled back out of the lineup. And if someone gets injured, I'd guess Clouston goes with Bell instead of Picard. That doesn't bode well for his future here. I highly doubt he's one of the players that Murray threatened to put on waivers but he could easily become a throw-in on another deal. The acquisition of Chris Campoli makes Picard a ghost.
Mike Comrie just brings a bit of that swagger back doesn't he? That goal he scored at the end of the first period was an absolute beauty.....By choosing to wear number 14 with the Senators, Chris Campoli is following in the footsteps of Brad Marsh, Jean-Yves Roy, Dave Hannan, Radek Bonk and Andrej Meszaros. Mike Comrie is the only player in the history of the Senators to wear 89. In fact, only one other player has worn a number in the 80's and that was Martin Straka who wore number 82.....It was interesting to see Jason Smith waving an apology to Hurricane goalie Michael Leighton after putting the puck in the net after the whistle in the second period. Classy. It's surprised me that Smith' s name hasn't been added to the rumour mill with trade deadline coming up. He's a guy who is custom built for the playoffs but with the Red Wings being the current champions, players of Smith's ilk are not in style right now but players like Campoli are. I think Murray should keep Smith around anyways. If the Senators can get into the playoffs next year, he'll be an impact player. Does anyone remember Smith getting stitches in the hallway off the bench while he was with the Oilers in the late-90's during a playoff game? The guy refused to go to the room and missed one shift. I wish I could find the video on that....
Joe Corvo was roundly booed every time he touched the puck - and that was often. Say what you want about Corvo, but it was a good career move for him to get sent to Carolina. He runs the whole teams offense from back there and it's easy to forget just how good a skater he really is. The similarities to Paul Coffey don't just end with his number 77. He doesn't have the hands (or the heart) that Coffey had though....
For a team that has recently won the Stanley Cup, the Hurricanes don't seem to have any aura whatsoever about them. Maybe it's because they won without any real superstars (with apologies to Eric Staal). At least when Tampa won, they had the Big 3 and you can still sense that the organization has won something.
But I'm guessing the Senators would trade their modest success for the Canes Stanley Cup banner any day.