Dreger: Senators players sensed something was coming

Darren Dreger
2/2/2009 9:25:15 PM
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Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk met with his players before the NHL All-Star break and delivered what the players describe as a "positive" speech.

Melnyk told them he was their biggest fan and stated if there was something he could do to help the team, he would.

The owners pep talk had little impact and the Senators inconsistency continues.

The daily burden of trying to change that was lifted off Craig Hartsburg on Sunday night when the Sens plane landed in Ottawa and shortly thereafter he was fired.

The players, the trainers and the assistants didn't hear of Hartsburg's dismissal until Monday morning, including Curtis Hunt who was also let go, but is being asked to accept a new role in Binghamton.
The players admit they sensed something was coming and since a big trade seemed unlikely, it became evident another coach would fall.

There are whispers around the organization Hartsburg didn't work this team hard enough, gave too many days off and wouldn't adjust to a more rigid approach.

It's easy to kick a man when he's down.

According to those familiar with interim coach Cory Clouston, his players in Binghamton are like "robots", programmed to respond to a very demanding style:  A style described as up-tempo, hard working and based on good structure.

In Clouston's brief meeting with the Ottawa Senators on his first day on the job he delivered energy and enthusiasm and he talked with the players about his expectations.

Clouston made it clear the coaches office will always be open, but cautioned the players may not like what he has to say when they go in.

Clouston's message focused on keeping the room positive and upbeat and the practice that followed the first of many team meetings reflected that.

Somewhat surprisingly, Sens players insist the room is still strong and credit themselves for not getting down through a very difficult season.

This team will need every ounce of that inner-strength to live up to the challenge established by a veteran player who wrapped up a tough day in Ottawa by saying, "well, all we have to do now is prove everyone in the world hard and fight for a playoff spot."

Darren Dreger


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