The big news of the day, other than the fact that Cory Clouston didn't get fired, was the bombshell that reporter Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun dropped on us from the rumour mill at the World Juniors in Buffalo.
Simmons wrote that the story going around about the Senators is that GM Bryan Murray tried to fire Clouston about a month ago but that owner Eugene Melnyk scotched the move and said Murray "might as well go" if Clouston had to be fired. This story is presented as a rumour, but obviously it's gotten around to the point that Simmons felt safe enough to print it.
It's questionable whether Bryan Murray will even address this story (although he's been brutally honest in the past) but if this is indeed true, then the problems in Ottawa are much, much worse than we originally thought.
The embarrassing loss to the Leafs on Saturday was enough for the Sun to devote a front page to Clouston's imminent firing and for Don Brennan to suggest that the players had possibly quit on Clouston.
But that kind of situation is pretty normal in the NHL. Coaches lose their players and then get fired. Happens a handful of times a year.
But an owner taking the power away from his GM to hire and fire in his own department? And threatening to sack the GM over it? Now that's unusual and, sadly, a sign that the whole organization is stumbling badly right now with no real direction and no hope left for this season.
Even if this story is completely false, Bryan Murray is hanging out in Buffalo right now, away from his team, looking completely neutered. The powers of the GM are pretty much sacrosanct in the NHL. Sure, they have a budget and a salary cap to deal with, but usually they have the power to run the hockey department as they see fit. And obviously that includes dismissing coaches when it needs to be done.
Clearly, this needs to be done in Ottawa. Whether it gets done right now or at the end of the season, Clouston has had his run and he hasn't gotten the results expected out of this roster. That's not being unfair. That's just the facts.
And it's likely that Murray has played all his cards as well, but it's hard to believe Melnyk would stand in Murray's way if he wanted to dismiss Clouston and take over the bench for the rest of the season. It would be understandable for Melnyk to say no if Murray wanted to fire Clouston and hire Ken Hitchcock or somebody else. But Clouston doesn't have a contract, so if Murray takes over behind the bench, it's not really costing Melnyk any extra money. In fact, it could make him money if Murray was somehow able to spark this team to a better record. Certainly, Clouston is not going to do that.
And what kind of message does this send to the players? If the GM doesn't believe in the coach, the players certainly aren't going to. This is basically the worst thing that could happen during the course of a season. Losses are one thing, but for an organization to fall apart in the executive offices is another.
In fact, this story is just so weird that I don't really believe it after writing about it for ten minutes.
Even if there is a smidgen of truth about it, Murray needs to come out immediately and give his support to Clouston. There's no other choice.
If he doesn't, it's going to be a gong show for the next few weeks.
Talk about bizarre.