Hartsburg up for Flames gig

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:13 PM ET

CALGARY - The Calgary Flames have nothing to announce just yet.

But a reunion for Craig Hartsburg and Flames head coach Brent Sutter doesn’t sound far off.

“Craig Hartsburg is a top candidate for a coaching job with the Calgary Flames,” Flames vice-president of communications Peter Hanlon said Thursday after TSN’s Bob McKenzie told the Twitterverse earlier in the day he expected Hartsburg to be named associate coach in Calgary sooner than later.

“However, there is work to be done before any official announcement.”

Read what you want into that statement, but barring some last-minute change of heart, it looks like the 51-year-old Hartsburg will be leaving the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips to return to the NHL coaching ranks in the very near future.

The work to be done could involve the Silvertips finding a replacement, with Hartsburg signed on to be their head coach for two more seasons.

It might just be a matter of the avid fisherman squeezing some time in to sign the paperwork.

Whatever the delay on what most now believe is inevitable, the bottom line is Sutter is surrounding himself with familiar faces to round out his coaching staff.

And if their history together is a sign of things to come, it should prove to be a solid addition for the Flames.

Sutter had Hartsburg by his side during the 2006 world junior championship in Vancouver, winning gold with Team Canada for a second straight year.

Taking over the top job at the world juniors when Sutter departed for New Jersey to coach the Devils, Hartsburg continued the winning tradition, leading the Canadian kids to gold in 2007 and 2008 before he followed Sutter to the NHL with the Ottawa Senators in the 2008-09 season.

That solo stint didn’t go so well — Hartsburg was fired after just 48 games in charge of a disappointing Sens squad that went 17-24-7 under his guidance.

At least one of the Senators who suffered through that awful season blamed Hartsburg’s system.

“I think our system, the way we played, was so defensive,” Mike Fisher said early the next season. “I found we were always in the defensive zone. We couldn’t get the puck out of our own end. Forwards were never getting pucks with speed, and that’s my game. By the time we got into their end we were changing, we were so tired. That felt like the first half of the season.”

Then again, things didn’t go so well for Hartsburg’s replacement, Cory Clouston. Fisher and his teammates quickly tuned out the newcomer as well. He was sent packing after this season.

Hartsburg stumbled slightly in that return to the NHL head coaching ranks after four seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, but his resume goes much farther back than that.

After his playing career with the Minnesota North Stars wrapped up in the late 1980s, he quickly jumped into an assistant coaching role with his former club.

A four-year term with the Philadelphia Flyers followed, and after a one-year hiatus to coach the OHL’s Guelph Storm — claiming the league’s coach-of-the-year award in the process — he was back in the big leagues coaching the Chicago Blackhawks.

His three years leading the Hawks coincided with Brent Sutter’s final three years as a player, and a working relationship based on mutual respect was born.

As a head coach in the NHL, including parts of three years with the Anaheim Ducks, Hartsburg’s teams made the playoffs in just three of his seven years — and he was twice fired mid-season.

But with the Flames, he’s simply another teacher. It’s Sutter’s system, Sutter’s philosophy, and Sutter’s style he’ll be preaching to his new charges.

The combination worked with kids. Now we’ll see how it plays out with the pros.


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