I just don't get it.
Perhaps someone can give me an explanation that will suddenly make it all seem so simple.
But until then, I just don't get it.
Why is Cory Clouston not starting Pascal Leclaire game after game in order to get his number one goaltender back into a groove? Why is he panicking just because Leclaire is predictably struggling after coming off a lengthy layoff?
And can someone tell me why Clouston chooses to make good guy Shean Donovan a healthy scratch against the Panthers in order to replace him with a minor-leaguer and then turn around and not play Zack Smith any meaningful minutes?
Why sit down Donovan, a guy who is playing without an ACL in one of his knees yet still manages to give everything he has on every shift? Why sit a guy who is as well liked by his teammates as anyone on the roster?
None of it makes sense.
Unless you come to the conclusion that the well respected and determined coach is starting to make poor decisions under pressure, much like his goalies that he yanks in and out every other game.
Far be it from me to pretend that I know what goes on in that locker room or that I know more than a lifelong hockey guy like Cory Clouston. I don't. Not even close.
Maybe Clouston wants to give Donovan and his ligament-free knee a rest. Maybe Bryan Murray made the decision for him. Maybe Clouston and Leclaire don't see eye to eye. Who knows?
To me, the real problems began to show when Clouston went with Elliott over Leclaire against the Bruins earlier this week. Leclaire was pulled in the previous game against the Flyers but most expected him to get back in the net against the Bruins. As one commenter correctly pointed out in my previous article, Elliott had already lost three games against the Bruins this season and it would have made sense for Clouston to at least try to shake things up against the seemingly unbeatable Tim Thomas. Yet there was Elliott back in nets against Boston and he got lit up early, forcing Clouston to put Leclaire back in.
That's when the yo-yo started and who knows when the string is going to run out?
Clouston's "lose and you're out" system isn't working. It didn't work tonight against Florida, it didn't work against Washington, and it certainly didn't work against Boston.
Basic hockey logic would tell you that Leclaire is never going to get better unless his coach backs him up and sticks him in the net come hell or high water, allowing the goalie to put bad games behind him by getting back in there right away. That sort of thinking worked for young defenseman Erik Karlsson. He was struggling but Clouston let him play his way through it and dare I say, Karlsson is already turning into one of the Senators most effective rearguards when it comes to moving the puck.
Leclaire is not going to get back to what he does best by sitting on the bench. He's just going to get injured by flying pucks.....
I would also suggest that Shean Donovan is just not Cory Clouston's guy. You can sense that over time. Donovan is almost always the first guy to come out of the lineup despite rarely wasting the scant minutes he's given.
If Clouston doesn't like Donovan, Murray should do the honourable thing and find a new home for speedy winger through a trade. No doubt there will be many teams who can find a spot for a character guy who gives it all to his team. Evidently the Senators don't need a guy like him.
And just let me say, thank the heavens for players like Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu for making even this stinker of a game somewhat entertaining. It's one thing to lose, but if you can at least bruise and enrage the other team in the process, you've come away with something, if not two points. Bryan McCabe may no longer be a Toronto Maple Leaf, but Ruutu got him so angry and frustrated near the end of the 3rd period that even the most jaded Senators fan had to smile a little.
The great thing about this Senators team is that they don't like to lose. When they do, you can bet that players like Neil, Ruutu and Matt Carkner are going to do everything they can to stay in their opponents memory.