With 34 games left in the season and the team wallowing near the bottom of the league standings, the Ottawa Senators have fired head coach Craig Hartsburg.
Corey Clouston, 39, head coach of the Sens’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton, will step behind the bench for the remainder of the season.
Senators general manager Brian Murray said he made the switch because he felt the team had not been making any progress in the last few games, particularly after Sunday’s loss to Washington.
“He understood,” said Murray about his conversation with Hartsburg. “He was apologetic a little bit in that he didn’t get the team to play the way he thought he could when he came here.”
By making the switch now, Murray said it gives the club enough games before the trade deadline and the end of the season to evaluate the players before making big decisions.
“Now we have to watch the players over the next period of time and decide who stays and who doesn’t stay to help us go forward,” he said. “We don’t have 20 complete players, but we have a core of players that should be much more competitive than they’ve shown lately.”
Murray acknowledged that a playoff spot is a “pretty tough chore,” but it’s not right to just give up, and the fans and the organization deserve every possible effort to make the post-season.
Instead of dwelling on making the playoffs, Clouston said his focus was to get the team to play up to its potential and that what the team needs most is to restore its confidence.
“There are a few things that need to be corrected in terms of the style and the way we are going to do things,” he said. “But I just think they need to feel good about themselves — come into the rink with some passion and play up to their potential as individuals and as a team.”
Clouston becomes the Senators’ ninth head coach, counting Roger Neilson’s two-game appearance in 2001-02 and Bryan Murray’s 18 games to complete last season.
He took over behind the B-Sens‚ bench in July 2007 and holds a 59-48-12-8 all-time AHL record.
Before that, Clouston spent five seasons with the Kooteney Ice of the Western Hockey League and was named WHL coach of the year in 2005 and 2007.