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Hartsburg going back to basics with Sens

Accountability, hard work will be keys to success, new head coach says

Friday, 18.07.2008 / 10:32 AM / Features
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Hartsburg going back to basics with Sens
New Ottawa Senators coach Craig Hartsburg wants to see a team-first approach for his first season behind the bench in Ottawa.

Ottawa Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg believes that accountability will be crucial to his team success.
Since the day he was hired as coach of the Ottawa Senators last month, Craig Hartsburg has been preaching the word “accountability” as his mantra.

When training camp rolls around, the former coach of the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks will be patient with his new team, but he will still expect his players to be accountable for themselves and each other from the second they enter the rink.

“Accountability is something I expect on and off the ice,” Hartsburg told “It has to do with conditioning, a team-first attitude and work ethic. Those are the areas we want to hold the players accountable in. If they come to camp ready to work and they’re playing with passion, then they’re doing what they’re supposed to and that’s what I mean by accountability.”

While Hartsburg expects this accountability to be evident from the start of training camp, he realizes it takes time for a team to get in sync. But as long as his players are exhibiting the aforementioned attributes and pushing each other and themselves to do so, he will be satisfied. If there’s one thing Hartsburg has learned, whether it is working with pro players when he was in Chicago and Anaheim or with teenagers at the junior level, it’s to be patient. As he pointed out, there needs to be time to let the on-ice product develop.

“The more you coach and the older you get, the more you learn and gain experience, and one major lesson I think I’ve learned is to be more patient,” the 49-year-old Hartsburg said. “You have to let things evolve and if you’re doing what you set out to do on a daily basis, then you will get to where you set out to be.

“There’s going to be mistakes on ice every game. But as long as players uphold those standards I mentioned, that’s what accountability is.”

The Senators recently added former Western Hockey League coach Curtis Hunt (Regina) as an assistant on Hartsburg’s staff. Hunt, who also worked with Hartsburg on the Canadian world junior team the last two years and won gold both times, impressed Hartsburg with his diligent preparation. Just like the players, the coaching staff will also hold itself accountable. If the system in place isn’t working, it will be forced to implement a new one.

“Curtis and our whole staff we’ve assembled bring a sense of accountability, and as a staff we will always be prepared,” said Hartsburg. “If we sense that the plan isn’t working but the players are still doing what we asked, then it’s our job as a staff to change the system. So in that sense, the coaching staff will lead the way.”

Hartsburg will also look for his core of veterans to lead the way. That’s why he was thrilled with the recent signing of Jason Smith, who is known around the league as one of the game’s great leaders and a solid citizen in the dressing room.

“We’ve been happy with all of our moves thus far and certainly Jason Smith fits into that leadership role that we will need a strong core of,” Hartsburg said of the former Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers captain. “Jason has proven to be a great leader on and off the ice, and that will go right along with that sense of accountability that we’re trying to build here.”

The Senators still have a very talented core of veterans like captain Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. While Hartsburg is excited to work with such a skilled group, he knows that without hard work and a team-first attitude, the skill could be rendered meaningless.

“If you watched the Stanley Cup playoffs carefully, you saw that it was not only the skilled teams advanced, but the ones that combined their skills with hard work,” said Hartsburg. “The teams that win are the ones that buy into a system and think team first. We’re going to address that here in Ottawa when camp starts. We’ll let everyone know that they need to be on the same page and establish that team-first atmosphere.

You have to play hard to win. It still doesn’t matter how much skill you have … if you don’t fight hard to protect and gain your space on the ice, you won’t win. - Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg
“You have to play hard to win. It still doesn’t matter how much skill you have … if you don’t fight hard to protect and gain your space on the ice, you won’t win.”

While Hartsburg realizes that working with professionals is different from working with junior players, he still believes his approach of patience and hard work can work at the pro level and help achieve his goal of getting the players to play as a unit.

“The NHL is certainly different in that the players are already at the highest level, so there’s less teaching involved,” said Hartsburg. “But there’re still similarities because no matter what level you’re at, there’s always room for improvement.

“To improve and achieve your goals, you need to preach patience and motivate each other. Like I said before, if we’re all doing that -- coaches and players -- then it goes back to what I’m saying (that) we’re holding each other accountable, and that’s what we plan to do.”

Author: James Murphy | Correspondent




1 MTL 63 41 17 5 171 139 87
2 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
3 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
4 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
5 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
6 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
7 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
8 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43


E. Karlsson 60 15 32 3 47
B. Ryan 56 15 30 8 45
K. Turris 60 15 28 -4 43
M. Hoffman 57 23 16 23 39
M. Stone 58 15 24 11 39
M. Zibanejad 58 15 18 2 33
C. MacArthur 53 13 13 -10 26
M. Michalek 55 11 14 -1 25
D. Legwand 58 8 14 -3 22
A. Chiasson 54 9 12 -8 21
C. Anderson 13 11 7 .927 2.37
R. Lehner 9 12 3 .905 3.02