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Senators correct mistake, give Craig Hartsburg the ax

Greg Wyshynski
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It's said every coach is hired to one day be fired; that was never more evident than when Craig Hartsburg was given the Ottawa Senators' bench last summer.

He was a completely pedestrian choice, hired because he was a disciplinarian for an egomaniacal roster; or because of his Canadian junior hockey fame; or because Florida Panthers Coach Peter DeBoer wanted too much job-security and money as the frontrunner.

So while DeBoer is being touted as a Jack Adams candidate while turning the Panthers into playoff contenders, Hartsburg was fired today by the Senators after going 17-27-7 for 41 points -- third-worst in the NHL. If his job was to light a fire under every player not named Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson or Jason Spezza, he failed; hell, according to one Columbus Blue Jackets player, Spezza basically quit, too. The team was an unmitigated disaster, and when Hartsburg wasn't exacerbating its problems he was also helpless to fix them.

That said, Hartsburg wasn't exactly the root of all the team's ills. The 6th Sens' immediate (and NSFW) reaction sees the firing as a scape-goating of the highest order, and it's hard to disagree that the players deserve the majority of the blame here. (More from The 6th Sens on the firing here.)

Of course, Hartsburg didn't hire himself, either.

GM Bryan Murray, who has been unable to reshape the roster or hire an effective coach after the team's Cup run a few years back, should take a major, job threatening hit here. So does Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who refused to allow drastic measures to be taken before the season had slipped away. Firing the coach one year into a three-year deal may begin the process of blowing this team up; in which case, does Melnyk then have to strap a bomb to himself like he suggested his critics should?

Bruce "Malkin to the Kings" Garrioch has some great reactions to the firing on Off The Posts this morning:

It's only appropriate on Groundhog Day the Senators have fired coach Craig Hartsburg. I mean: What else is new? John Paddock went in February last year. These guys are coach killers.

It would appear Cory Clouston is going to take over as head coach. That's shocking. He hasn't proven himself at the American Hockey League level. He's described as being tough and doesn't care about hurting anybody's feeling.

Another tough and uncaring drill sergeant, huh? So they fired Craig Hartsburg to promote another Craig Hartsburg.

If nothing else, the former Senators coach can compare notes with Barry Melrose about players quitting, mismanagement from above and the inability of a pedestrian coach with an old school mindset to make a difference anymore in today's NHL.

Where oh where would the Senators be with a coach like Todd McLellan or Pete DeBoer? Not five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs like they are now.

UPDATE: A couple of Ottawa blog reactions this morning. Sens Army has more about the firing and the new (one assumes) interim coach:

It's fitting that the Senators just lost to a reborn Washington Capitals team, because this Clouston decision sounds a lot like people trying to find a way to replicate Bruce Boudreau's success with the Caps. Boudreau was recruited from the Hershey Bears and named interim head coach of the Caps in November 2007, and his success his bosses dropped the 'interim' tag and kept him on full time. With Clouston, if things work out (and there's a pretty loose definition of that right now), he sticks around. If not, he heads back to Bingo next year, and the Sens do the interview process for the third off-season in a row.

It's also interesting to note that some Binghamton fans have been calling for Clouston's head to roll after a few consecutive poor seasons for the B-Sens, this season notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, our old pal Erin Nicks at The Universal Cynic thinks Hartsburg looks like "a poor man's Dicky Barrett" when clearly he's a younger poor man's Robert Blake. Beyond that, she brings up the name that will be mentioned on the hour in the Canadian media until it happens:

We're hearing rumblings of Pat Quinn (and no, not his stomach). Apparently he named was dropped last night within the inner sanctum as the knife fell. True? No? Stay tuned.

We've heard for weeks that Quinn was going to either Ottawa or Pittsburgh, depending on which ax dropped first. The Senators make perfect sense, because they're star-[expletive]'ers of the highest order when it comes to coaches, aren't they?

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