Saturday, January 9, 2010

Clouston Shaky When Sens Need A Steady Hand At The Wheel

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.


Blood Red Army said...

I was speechless when I read this afternoon that Elliott was in and that Donovan was out. I'm never one to question a coach, but that was downright foolish.

Imagine Vancouver had given up on Luongo through his lengthy struggles in the early going of the season? Couldn't agree with you more, let LeClaire play his way through it!

Anonymous said...

Leclaire did skip practice the other day and followed it up with a shaky performance. Sit him an extra day and give him the second of the back to back games.

Donovan - who knows, but he's not the future and he's not scoring. Maybe they just wanted to give smith a shot? There are a ton of possibilities which do not involve bad coaching.

Anonymous said...

I thought that it was strange that Elliott got the start as well, until I found out that they had another game tonight.

In that context, giving each goalie one start is pretty normal, I think. It might have been more predictable if Leclaire got the FLA game and Elliott got the CAR game, but does it really matter?

I also agree with you that Donovan does a pretty good job when he is in the lineup. I'm not too keen on some of your justifications though. You mention that he is well liked by his teammates. That's great.

But, I would hate to see the Sens make lineup decisions based on personal popularity. All that should matter is the player's effectiveness on the ice.

But, I still agree with you. He's effective.

In Clouston's defence, I think that it would be pretty hard keeping Zac Smith out of the lineup, due to the fact that the GM called him up. I'm assuming that the GM makes the decision on who gets called up. That's how it normally works.

If Murray calls up a young developing guy like Smith, I don't think he wants to see how many peanuts he can eat in the press box. I think it's implied that he wants to see how the guy looks at the NHL level. But, you got a point with regards to the lack of meaningful minutes he got.

Lastly, the fact that the game was a stinker meant that I didn't watch long enough to see the antics. My bias is that I like a skilled game. I liked it better when we were a skilled team that sent Grats out every once in a while to slap people around.

Anonymous said...

Well honestly it doesnt matter because neither of our goalies are NHL tenders. Neither.

If not for the previous 2 headcoach dismissals in Ottawa there is no way Clouston would have kept his job. No way. But at this point 3C is not going anywhere and we really have to batten down the hatches here to try and right the ship. The wheels are off and honestly, I'm not sure they can be put back on during this season.

hambown said...

I fully disagree that neither of our tenders are NHl tenders; in fact I think they both are, but both are still learning. Leclaire is clearly an NHL tender, but is having to do too much in support of a defense that is inadequate.

The wheels? The wheels will be fine. Once Ottawa gets Spezza, Alfredsson, Michalek and Winchester back from injury, things will be better. Kuba I can take or leave, his defense is woeful and he's not scoring enough to make up for it. An upgrade on defense is sorely needed.

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate your position Hambown, the statistics disagree and don't lie:

- In Sv% Elliot and Leclaire are 45th and 46th in the NHL, respectively, reporting %'s well below the minimum considered avg (of 0.90) in order to be successful in the NHL. Amoung players Auld and Jonas Gustavsson rank ahead of our duo.

- In GAA the two rank 34th and 39th respectively. Note in both cases Elliot ranks higher than Leclaire - who makes in excess of $3M/yr.

Your point on the defence is valid, however the goalies need to carry their own weight and play up to their level - which isn't happening. Gerbage and Razor were better than these clowns.

Anonymous said...

6 -1 to Atlanta?

Fire Murray ... now!!!