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Senators ready to turn the page

Hartsburg hiring signalled beginning of a new era, attitude in Ottawa

Saturday, 06.28.2008 / 10:12 AM ET / Features
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Senators ready to turn the page

The Ottawa Senators’ up-and-down season ended with a first round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Watch Penguins-Senators highlights
Just four months after losing in the Stanley Cup final, the Ottawa Senators looked poised for another run at the most famous trophy in all of sports.

The defending Eastern Conference champions started the season with 15 wins in their first 17 games, mostly with their expected backup goalie in net. After beating the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 12, the Senators were 19 games over .500, simply soaring.

But a season that started with so much promise ended with so many questions.

Ottawa was ticketed for the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first half of the season, but wound up making the playoffs as the seventh seed, just two points ahead of the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes. They each had 43 wins.

The Senators’ tumultuous second half cost first-year coach John Paddock his job on Feb. 27. General manager Bryan Murray, who won 100 games as the team’s coach from 2004-07, returned to the bench, but didn’t fare much better as he went 7-10-2 over the final 19 games.

The Senators were swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who went on to win the Eastern Conference, needing only 14 games to reach the Stanley Cup final.

“A lot of things happened that made us a very average team,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson told “We just weren’t good enough when it counted. I think we got into a downward spiral that we couldn’t (get out of).”

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Injuries played a major factor in the Senators’ second-half problems. In fact, after the Penguins were finished with Ottawa, Alfredsson revealed he played the final two games of the series with a torn knee ligament after missing the first two games of the series thanks to a high check from Toronto forward Mark Bell on April 3.

Alfredsson was the leading scorer in the NHL at the all-star break, but finished ninth due to his injury problems.

Checking-line centre Mike Fisher also suffered a knee injury at the end of the season, and leading scorer Jason Spezza (92 points) was hobbled at times, too. Dany Heatley (shoulder) wound up missing time from mid-January until early February, which was right about the time the Senators started veering off track.

No one, though, wanted to blame injuries for the team’s second half swoon.

“I don’t think we played as a group,” said Heatley. “You just look at our team, why we weren’t successful. … We were too disjointed out there. We weren’t five guys playing together. When that happens, it’s never a good thing.”

One of the problems the Sens faced was a goaltending issue. Ray Emery, who backstopped Ottawa to the Stanley Cup final last year, was supposed to be the No. 1 guy again this season. But Martin Gerber played well in the beginning of the season when Emery was still recovering from off-season wrist surgery.

When Emery finally returned, he struggled and wound up causing problems by showing up late to practice twice. The second incident resulted in a fine. Emery apologized for his actions and his attitude improved, but he was never the same goalie this season as he was during last year’s playoff run. He was waived by the Sens prior to the entry draft.

The Senators still wound up with 261 goals, second most in the league and just one behind the Montreal Canadiens. Their defence sagged, however, as they allowed four or more goals in 18 of their final 44 games from Jan. 1 until the end of the season. They went 18-22-4 during that stretch.

In the playoffs, the offence hit a wall, too. Pittsburgh limited the Senators to just five goals in the four games.

“We were really good early on and then all of a sudden, our defence … we couldn’t stop the puck from going into our own net,” said Alfredsson. “We were letting in 3-4 goals a game, and our special teams weren’t very good.”

The Senators, though, began to turn the page on June 13 when Murray announced that Craig Hartsburg would take over as the team’s coach. Hartsburg, who has five years of NHL head-coaching experience, gained international acclaim by leading Team Canada to back-to-back gold medals at the World Junior Championship. He’s known as a disciplinarian who stresses work ethic and many pundits believe that’s exactly the type of coach the Senators need at this juncture.

“I know it’s a great challenge and I can’t wait because I love challenges,” Hartsburg said at his introductory press conference. “The sooner this thing gets started the better.”

Contact Dan Rosen at

Author: Dan Rosen | Staff Writer




1 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
2 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
3 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
4 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
5 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
6 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
7 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
8 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


E. Karlsson 82 21 45 7 66
M. Stone 80 26 38 21 64
K. Turris 82 24 40 5 64
B. Ryan 78 18 36 5 54
M. Hoffman 79 27 21 16 48
M. Zibanejad 80 20 26 0 46
C. MacArthur 62 16 20 -6 36
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
D. Legwand 80 9 18 1 27
A. Chiasson 76 11 15 -5 26
C. Anderson 14 13 8 .923 2.49
R. Lehner 9 12 3 .905 3.02