In light of Thursday's news that the Flames are perhaps close to announcing the hiring of Craig Hartsburg as Brent Sutter's assistant coach, I contacted Peter Raaymakers from SB Nation's Senators blog Silver Seven to ask his opinion of the man formerly in charge in the nation's capital and the circumstances that led to his untimely dismissal after just 48 games behind the bench during the 2008-09 season.
Read on after the jump for his thoughts.
There is, obviously, a huge difference between being the leading man on a team as the head coach and being part of the supporting cast as an assistant, so Calgary's experiences may be very different from Ottawa's, but Hartsburg's time in Ottawa was a rough ride for all involved.When Hartsburg came in, his number one priority was reeling in the team's star players--notably Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza--and finding a way to have them commit to a team-first game. Whatever he tried to do with that goal, it failed horribly, and that failure combined with the deadly combination of a defence corps unable to get the puck out of their zone and some suspect goaltending equalled a recipe for disaster.
In Hartsburg's defence, he didn't really have much of a chance to succeed. The team was built with a few significant flaws, on and off-ice, and Hartsburg must have been so busy trying to plug the holes in the dyke that he missed the fact that water was pouring right over the top. He was the scapegoat for the failures, to be sure, but that doesn't mean he was without blame for the abysmal performance of the team during the 48 games he was behind the bench in Ottawa.
Like the Flames, the Senators have had a rough go of things in recent years; the team has lost twice in the first round, was forced to bid farewell to one of its best players in Dany Heatley, and missed the post-season twice since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006-07. In that time span, they've gone through four head coaches.
Throwing the coach under the bus is nothing new in professional sports. Like Hartsburg and perhaps even John Paddock before him, it could be argued that both Jim Playfair and Mike Keenan were casualties of a team ridden with insufficient parts and some bad luck. Despite Keenan's warts, he was made the scapegoat for the Flames' failures in 2008-09 caused by Darryl Sutter's poor management of the salary cap and Miikka Kiprusoff's less than stellar play. It sounds like Hartsburg's situation in Ottawa was very similar, and fairly or not, any other coach in his predicament probably would have taken the fall as well.
If the Flames' season goes to Hell in a hand-basket like most are anticipating, I can't see Hartsburg taking much of the blame in his first season as an assistant, but it's possible that he could find himself as the man in charge behind an NHL bench once again if Brent does get the boot.