Craig Hartsburg admits the product isn’t quite finished yet.
But already, he’s enthused about the group of players he’ll have to work with when the Ottawa Senators assemble for their new head coach’s first training camp with the team in September.
Since the beginning of the free-agency period on July 1, Senators general manager Bryan Murray has brought three new players into the fold – veteran defenceman Jason Smith, agitating forward Jarkko Ruutu and goaltender Alex Auld
. All three, Hartsburg said, should fit well into the type of team he’s hoping to build, even if they’re additions “that maybe won’t show up on the scoresheet.”
“I’m excited about (signing) a Jason Smith and adding Ruutu to our lineup,” said Hartsburg. “We’ve added some great people and we’ve got great players throughout our team. You don’t win in any league unless you’ve got character. Teams can’t have enough of it and we’ve added some real good pieces in that area.
“Bryan’s helped us. He’s helped us add some people that will believe in the same values and principles that the coaching staff believes in. The key for us is getting everybody on that same page and (having) that attitude of everybody doing whatever it takes.”
Hartsburg filled out his coaching staff on Friday, adding Curtis Hunt as an assistant coach alongside returnee Greg Carvel and goaltending coach Eli Wilson. Hartsburg and Hunt previously worked together on Team Canada’s staff at back-to-back world junior championships, producing a pair of gold-medal teams.
Hunt will work with the Senators’ defencemen in particular, along with the penalty-killing unit. Hartsburg believes his assistant will have a solid group of blueliners to work with, assuming restricted free agent Andrej Meszaros re-signs in Ottawa. Smith and former Ottawa 67’s captain Brendan Bell have been added this month, and Brian Lee, the Senators’ top pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, is expected to push hard for a full-time position next season.
“It’s still fairly early in the summer,” said Hartsburg when asked about his blue-line brigade. “I know Bryan’s still working on things. We’ll worry about that coming training camp, but we’re certainly excited about the group we’ve got there.
“We added some character this week in Jason Smith, who’s been a great leader, and I think he’ll be a big key for us. Some young players like Lee and Meszaros can take a big step, and Curtis will play a big role in their development.”
It’ll be a different kind of training camp, too, with the Senators opening their season in Stockholm with games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 4 and 5. Hartsburg and Co. will see the remainder of what lies ahead later this week, when the National Hockey League releases its 2008-09 schedule.