May 16, 2012
It's rare to see a major junior hockey club pay someone not to coach — but that could happen to Cory Clouston, who was in the NHL not too long ago.
The WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings announced Tuesday that Clouston will not be back for 2012-13. Wheaties owner and general manager Kelly McCrimmon stated this was a preventative move since Clouston "will perhaps have opportunities to coach professionally," but it's doubtful many bought the explanation.
Certainly not after some of the inside accounts that have emerged. Wheat Kings play-by-play broadcaster Bruce Luebke said there was a clear schism within the team. It's easy to chalk this up to a former NHL coach being unable to re-adapt to coaching teenagers, or would be if Clouston hadn't earned his spurs in the Western league.
The hard-driving coaching style employed by Clouston was looked upon with disdain by the players, and his treatment of the players, especially the younger players, became such an issue that sources told me that team captain Mark Stone met with GM Kelly McCrimmon midway through the season to discuss the matter.
... An observation during the post-season for me came in the post-season, when I had a chance to watch the Wheat Kings' opponents (Calgary and Edmonton) practice, something not often afforded during the regular season.
Those teams ran high-tempo practices with coaching staffs that worked in sync with one another — two things lacking during Brandon's practices.
Bottom line, Cory Clouston might be good with the X's and O's of the game, but his motivational techniques and personality might be in conflict with what's effective in this day and age of hockey.
Does not being warm and fuzzy make Cory Clouston a poor hockey coach? Not in the least.
But, it does make him a difficult person to be around on a daily basis. (Luber's Lounge)
Brandon went for the big move at the WHL trade deadline, adding high-scoring Buffalo Sabres prospect Kevin Sundher from the Victoria Royals. At the time, it came off as a strange move since Brandon was 22-17-1-1, behind the Eastern Conference leaders in Edmonton and Moose Jaw (who ultimately met in the conference final). In retrospect, it read like an attempt to 'add dynamic scorer and stir' because McCrimmon couldn't change coaches at that point, as Dean Millard noted.
One source told me that he's surprised it didn't happen earlier in the season, and added that if G.M./owner Kelly McCrimmon hadn't been so busy working out a new lease deal with the Keystone Centre, he might have taken over after Christmas.
Several scouts told us there was a disconnect between Clouston and his players. (The Pipeline Show)
Clouston will likely have a soft landing some place or other eventually. Whoever takes over behind the bench in Brandon will be getting in on the ground floor of a rebuilding project. With Stone, who made his NHL debut last month for Ottawa, and Michael Ferland now 20 years old, the last remnants of the Wheat Kings' 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup runner-up team has moved on to bigger and brighter things. So just like with the Ottawa Senators, Clouston's not the best coach for a retooling organization.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.