Struggling Senators fire coach Hartsburg Staff

2/2/2009 10:13:37 PM

Craig Hartsburg was fired as head coach of the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night, only 48 games into his first season behind the team's bench.

The final straw for Hartsburg was Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Washington Capitals. 

"We just weren't making any progress," General Manager Bryan Murray said during Monday's news conference. "We're struggling to keep up.

"I think when we started this year, we all believed this group would be a good team.  We had fairly high expectations.  We also believed that we would rebound from a shaky start.  We kept hoping there would be some change in our performance, which didn't seem to be taking place."

Hartsburg signed a three-year contract in June of 2008, taking over for current general manager Bryan Murray.  His 17-27-7 record has left Ottawa with 41 points, which is the third worst point total in the league.

Hartsburg, who was the third coach Ottawa has employed since since they appeared in the Stanley Cup finals in 2007, has been replaced for the rest of the season by Binghamton Senators head coach Cory Clouston.

The 39-year-old Clouston, who was named head coach of the AHL Sens on July 19, 2007, holds a 59-48-12-8 all-time AHL record. Prior to joining the Senators' organization, Clouston spent five seasons as head of the Western Hockey League's Kooteney Ice.

"I expect a lot from the players," Clouston said.  "What (the players) are lacking, I think that I can help them out.  When I spoke to the guys I said, 'we're all in this together...When you look at the big picture, I'm very confident in myself and the biggest thing is, I believe in the guys in the dressing room."

Prior to his stint with the Senators, the 49-year-old Hartsburg spent five seasons as head coach of the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. During that period, he was also assistant coach to Brent Sutter for Team Canada's 2006 World Junior championship win, before going on to lead Canada to two more junior gold medals as head coach in 2007 and 2008.

Previously, Hartsburg had been at the helm of the Chicago Blackhawks (1995-98) and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (1998-2000).

Hartsburg, a former NHL defenceman, was picked sixth overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1979 NHL draft. The native of Stratford, Ont. had 413 career points in 570 games over 10 seasons with the team.

Assistant coach Curtis Hunt was also let go by the Senators, but the team is trying to encourage Hunt to go down to Binghampton to help fill the void left by Clouston's promotion.

Murray also said he wants to see how the coaching change affects the performance of his players.

With the NHL trade deadline of March 4 approaching fast, Murray said "we have some big decisions to make in that time."