Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ottawa is Hartsburg’s new burg…

Friday the 13th wasn’t that unlucky a day for former Team Canada Head coach Craig Hartsburg, the bench boss of Canada’s junior medal champs on two occasions has once again landed a spot in the NHL and Sens fans are hoping that he may be the key ingredient to a puzzling squad that frequently has under performed.

Craig Hartsburg joined his third NHL team as head coach on Friday signing on as the new on ice boss for the Ottawa Senators, promising accountability and a work ethic as the ticket to success under his stewardship.

In the last few days it seemed to have become a competition between two junior coaches as to who would take the reins of the Senators, as Hartsburg’s name was regularly swapped with that of Kitchener Ranger coach Peter DeBoer who signed his own deal on Friday with the Florida Panthers.

The Hartsburg hiring brought to an end Ottawa’s job search which became a necessity after Ottawa bowed out of the NHL playoffs in the first round, an unthinkable thing for a team that had provided so much promise in the last few years and always seems to find a way to come up short.

A Stanley Cup finalist a year ago, this year was the year of unraveling which saw former head coach John Paddock dismissed before mid season as the Senators began a free fall from first to the lower reaches of the Eastern Conference.

Paddock was replaced by GM Bryan Murray, who had taken the team to the finals in 2006-07 only to watch basically the core group of players struggle and slide through the season, never really recapturing their drive for success or seem to be ready to take responsibility for their on ice miscues.

It’s a scenario that most likely won’t be repeated in 2008-09 a no nonsense coach, Hartsburg has always eschewed a strong work ethic and accountability for your work, from his days with the Junior A Greyhounds in Sault Ste. Marie to his post as head coach of Canada’s successful world junior program, players know where they stand immediately with their coach.

With the perception that the Senators had taken advantage of John Paddock over this past season and that he had seemingly lost the room as they say, a major shift was clearly required and Hartsburg should signal that the atmosphere in Ottawa is on the verge of a serious change.

While his standards are considered high and he occasionally will grate on a player in the wrong way, he’s always been thought of as a fair coach. Willing to reward those that are putting in the effort with the ice time, while making sure that those that don’t pull their weight have plenty of time to watch and wait for another chance to pull up their socks and show they’re inclined to follow the program as prescribed.

The Sens may only have a few more years of reasonable access to another Stanley Cup playoff run, free agency, age and the usual stresses and strains of team chemistry will change the dynamic of the team, Hartsburg will be tasked to try and get a few more seasons out of the core group assembled, though we suspect that Bryan Murray won’t hesitate too long to make changes if he feels that there is an upgrade needed to make Hartsburg’s arrival a success.

Training camp may very well prove to be an eye opener in Ottawa this year, a rather stark signal that this past season was not acceptable and will not be repeated, unless of course the current crop of Sens are interested in change of address cards.

Ottawa Citizen-- Craig's it
Ottawa Sun-- DeBoer de Man?

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