A lot of people get skeptical when you bring in a rookie coach and throw him into the fire and get him to fix what’s wrong, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said Wednesday.

But “it speaks to character and personality, that someone is willing to step up to the plate,” he said.

And according to Melnyk, Cory Clouston has shown both.

Melnyk, along with general manager Bryan Murray, announced at Scotiabank Place that Clouston — who has been the team’s interim head coach since Feb. 2 — has signed a two-year contract extension as the team’s head coach.

The contract runs through the 2010-11 season.

“The true colours of the team have shown over the last 30 or so games,” said Clouston. “What we’ve accomplished here shows what we can expect next year.”

Melnyk, too, was confident in the team’s prospects next year.

“I think you will see a team next year that’s in a fighting mood,” said Melnyk.

When asked if he was worried about having a rookie coach, Melnyk said he recognizes it’s not a traditional move, and that’s why he likes it. If you don’t take risks, you miss out on the chance to succeed, he said.

“Anyone who doesn’t take risks is just going to be mediocre,” he said. “This is outside the box and it does work. I’ll put up anyone who has experience with someone who has passion.”

For Clouston, signing a contract with the Senators was a no-brainer.

“I wanted the opportunity to continue what we had started,” he said.

“We may not be in the playoffs, but we belong there,” said Clouston.

Murray agreed.

“I think we’re a contender right now,” he said.

Clouston, 39, replaced Craig Hartsburg on Feb. 2. In 32 games as Ottawa’s head coach, Clouston has posted a record of 19-10-3, accumulating 41 points.

Clouston is the ninth head coach in Senators history, counting Roger Neilson’s two games in the 2001-02 season and Bryan Murray’s 18 games to complete the 2007-08 season.

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