Craig Hartsburg returns to the NHL for the first time since 2004. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
Craig Hartsburg is widely regarded as a great junior hockey coach; a voice of reason who can make a huge impact on a young player striving to make it to the NHL.
As an NHL coach, however, he does not have the same successful reputation.
And yet it is Hartsburg the Ottawa Senators have chosen to try to turn things around.
The 48-year-old former NHL defenseman was chosen to replace Bryan Murray as coach of the Sens. Murray remains as the team’s GM, having decided to step back behind the bench late this season after firing John Paddock.
The Senators, who had internal problems all season, did not respond well to the change and were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs after making it to the Stanley Cup final the year before.
Hartsburg spent the past four seasons behind the bench of the Ontario League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, where he had a 141-91-8 record. That is good. What isn’t as impressive is his 184-190-69 record as an NHL bench boss with the Chicago Blackhawks and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He also has extensive experience as an assistant coach in the NHL.
The Senators have been one of the NHL’s best regular season teams the past few years, but have been unable to translate that into a championship. They are now a team in transition with a goalie, Ray Emery, who was a distraction this season and a No. 1 center, Jason Spezza, who seriously needs to take his game to the next level in the playoffs.
One might have suspected a more authoritarian figure would have been a better choice as the Sens new coach, maybe a Pat Burns- or John Tortorella-type. Then again, if Hartsburg has learned along the way and can translate his junior success into NHL success, maybe the Senators can once again be a threat to win the Cup.