Skip to Main Content

Hartsburg going behind Senators' bench

by Dan Rosen

Ottawa's Craig Hartsburg was previously head coach of the Blackhawks (1995-98) and the Mighty Ducks (1998-2000).
Craig Hartsburg is making his way to Canada's capital to breathe new life into the Ottawa Senators.
Senators General Manager Bryan Murray announced Hartsburg's hiring in a news conference Friday morning at Scotiabank Place. Murray had finished this past season as head coach after relieving John Paddock of his duties Feb. 27.

"I thought we really needed someone to handle the scrutiny of the Ottawa media, someone who had high expectations of himself and the team, someone that could handle the pressure which comes with being the coach of the Ottawa Senators and somebody that can keep the standard high," Murray said. "After much discussion and lots of evaluation we have chosen the right candidate."

Hartsburg, 48, comes to Ottawa after close to four full seasons as the head coach of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, as well as back-to-back years coaching Team Canada to the gold medal at the World Junior Championships.

He previously was an NHL head coach for the Chicago Blackhawks from 1995-98 and Anaheim Mighty Ducks from 1998-2000, compiling a record of 173-169-65.

Hartsburg, who played 10 years as a defenseman for the Minnesota North Stars, also served as an assistant coach for one season with the North Stars and had two stints as an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I will push and challenge our players every day to be their best," said Hartsburg, who has a 184-190-69 record as an NHL coach. "If you do that and the players accept being pushed and challenged to be their best, by the end of the year we will be our best."

Related Links:

Hartsburg is known as a stern disciplinarian, which could be what the Senators need. Many pundits believe Ottawa's lack of discipline led to their late-season swoon.

The Senators were 25-9-4 through December, including 15-2 to start the season, but went just 18-22-4 from Jan. 1 until the end of the regular season. They dropped from first in the Eastern Conference to seventh and were swept out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Early in this whole thing the players will see there is a plan and we're here as coaches to motivate players to follow the plan," Hartsburg said. "When the plan is not followed there will certainly be some accountability. I don't want to get into specifics, but trust me -- there will be accountability. It'll be black and white. Players will know what is right and what is wrong. They will know the line not to cross."

Hartsburg said one of his first orders of business is to sell his plan to long-time team captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"Part of coaching is selling your ideas and your beliefs," Hartsburg said. "This is the National Hockey League. These are players that are very intelligent and we need to, as quickly as possible, let them know the direction we're going in."

Hartsburg's cupboard in Ottawa is far from bare, with the club's top three scorers from this past season -- Jason Spezza (92 points), Alfredsson (89) and Dany Heatley (82) -- set to return, along with gritty forwards Mike Fisher and Chris Neil, and top defensemen Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov.

The club's top two goalies, Martin Gerber and Ray Emery, are signed through next season as well, but there have been rumors that a crease shake-up is possible. Also, key pieces Cory Stillman, Chris Kelly, Wade Redden, Mike Commodore, Randy Robitaille and Shean Donovan are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1.

The Senators hold the 18th pick of the first round in next week's NHL Entry Draft, which is being held at Scotiabank Place.

"To me, it's not about being fixed," Hartsburg said. "It's about me coming in with a program and getting players to buy into it. Everybody will certainly have roles, but I'm not one to say stay in your role. I want them to do more.

"A scorer is not here to just score -- he needs to do more. A checker is not here to check -- he needs to do more. The challenge we'll put forth to the players is that you're all going to be asked to do a lot more than you have in the past."

Considering Hartsburg's success at the junior-hockey level, his return to the NHL as a head coach was just a matter of time.

Since beginning his second stint as the Greyhounds' coach early in the 2004-05 season -- he led them to a 38-20-10 record in 2001-02 before going to Philadelphia to be an assistant -- Hartsburg went 141-91-8-23, including 81 wins in the last two seasons.

He guided Sault Ste. Marie to a 44-18-2-4 mark this past season and a spot in the OHL's Western Conference final.

Hartsburg, though, gained international acclaim for his success with Team Canada. He coached the Canadians to the gold medal in the last two World Junior Championships, and also won gold as Brent Sutter's assistant in 2006.

In junior hockey you're trying to get players to act like pros, but you don't treat them like pros. In the National Hockey League they are pros, but there are still problems you have to deal with. Players have to know there is a plan and we have to do our best to motivate them to follow the plan. Then there is accountability, and whether it's junior hockey or the National Hockey League, that doesn't change. - Craig Hartsburg
"In junior hockey you're trying to get players to act like pros, but you don't treat them like pros," Hartsburg said. "In the National Hockey League they are pros, but there are still problems you have to deal with. Players have to know there is a plan and we have to do our best to motivate them to follow the plan. Then there is accountability, and whether it's junior hockey or the National Hockey League, that doesn't change."

Hartsburg should know. He's spent nearly half his life in the NHL.

After registering 413 points and playing in three All-Star Games as a member of the North Stars, Hartsburg became an assistant in Minnesota for the 1989-90 season before moving to Philadelphia for his first stint as an assistant, from 1990-94.

Hartsburg's first head coaching experience came with Guelph of the OHL in 1994-95. He won 47 games, was named OHL Coach of the Year, and the following season was the leading man behind the Blackhawks' bench.

Chicago reached the postseason in Hartsburg's first two seasons, but won just 30 games in 1997-98 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 29 years. He was let go after the season despite compiling a 104-102-40 record.

It didn't take him long to find work as he was immediately hired as coach of the struggling Mighty Ducks, who had missed the playoffs in 1998 after getting swept out of the Western Conference Semifinal the year before by Detroit.

Hartsburg brought Anaheim back to the playoffs in his first season there, but a first-round exit was followed by a disappointing 1999-00 campaign. Hartsburg eventually lost his job 33 games into the 2000-01 season. The Ducks went 80-85-29-3 with Hartsburg coaching.

Hartsburg spent the next season with the Greyhounds before going back to Philadelphia as Ken Hitchcock's assistant for two seasons. He returned to Sault Ste. Marie early in the 2004-05 season.

"We were down to a couple of people, but it appeared to me that one guy thrived on the scrutiny, thrived on the pressure and wanted to be in Ottawa," Murray said. "At the end of the day, that's the kind of person we want here. He's the guy that wants be here and wants the opportunity to lead this team to where we want to be."

Contact Dan Rosen at

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.