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THN.com Blog: Firing Hartsburg doesn't solve Sens' real issue

Craig Hartsburg had a 17-24-7 record with the Senators this season.(Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Craig Hartsburg had a 17-24-7 record with the Senators this season.(Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators fired Craig Hartsburg late Sunday night, putting the now-former head coach on the breadlines after just 48 games helming the team.

The move was less than a shock, considering Ottawa has been languishing at the bottom of the NHL standings for months. But it doesn’t speak to the real problem with the Sens – namely, the holy trinity of salary cap killers that is Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson.

Much like the Tampa Bay Lightning painfully learned, the Sens need to understand teams simply can’t devote the bulk of their cap room to three elite forwards and have enough left over to address the other needs of their team.

If owner Eugene Melnyk and Ottawa GM Bryan Murray need to see an example of cap management done right, they ought to look to the Calgary Flames, who, like the Sens, pay out big bucks to three of their players. The big difference is that in Calgary, one of those three (Jarome Iginla) plays forward, one (Dion Phaneuf) plays defense, and one (Miikka Kiprusoff) plays in net.

In other words, the Flames have a balance and symmetry to their on-ice and financial plans that serves the overall needs of the organization well.

The Sens have nothing of the sort – and that pronounced imbalance played a major role in costing Hartsburg his job.

• In the best celebrity endorsement of The Hockey News I’ve seen in my time with the publication, legendary singer/songwriter Paul Anka named THN.com as one of his top five Internet bookmarks. (Thanks to veteran nice guy Paul Kukla at Kukla’s Korner for the heads-up.)

“There are plenty of great articles and feature stories (on THN.com), with National Hockey League angles you won't find elsewhere,” Anka said with complete and utter accuracy. “I enjoy the blogs and columns, and can even see the standings and stats there as well.”

I also enjoy the blogs and columns, Mr. Anka. Thanks for the plug!

• Can’t wait to see how the pro-fighting lobby will spin the strong, wise words of Michael Sanderson – father of the late Don Sanderson – who wants the game’s gatekeepers to alter the over-the-top culture of violence that leads to fights like the one that contributed to his son’s death.

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“The appetite should be there to change the rules, so we make it tough to fight, to the point that if you know you're going to fight, you and your team are also going to pay a price. If you decide to fight, then it's a big fine and a suspension,” Michael Sanderson told the Globe And Mail, suggesting fines of up to $10,000 for players who fight. “There has to be accountability for everybody.”

Indeed, that’s all many of us have ever asked for – substantive penalties that act as a deterrent to the oft-staged shenanigans and faux machismo that passes for “entertainment” in a league that should be about speed, skill and legitimate physicality.

But hey, who is Michael Sanderson, right? Just another nobody who doesn’t “get it,” I guess.

• NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly appeared on The Hockey News Radio Show on XM Channel 204 last Friday afternoon. Among the items he discussed with me and co-host Mike Ross was the so-called “inflator” clause in the collective bargaining agreement that pushes up the salary cap by five percent from season to season.

Some have reported the players hold the sole option to trigger the inflator clause, but Kelly clarified and corrected those reports.

“Each year there’s a presumptive five percent growth factor (within the cap),” Kelly said. “It applies automatically so long as there are positive revenues in the sport. The only time it doesn’t get applied is when both the league and the players affirmatively agree it shouldn’t apply.

“(The inflator) has applied each of the past three years because there has been positive revenue growth. The notion that somehow it’s the Players’ Association (that has the inflator option) is not accurate. It’s actually something that’s built into the system.”

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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