MONTREAL -- You can put Bob Hartley's name on the list of candidates for the Senators' coaching job.
It is expected within the next couple of weeks the Senators will ask permission of the Thrashers -- with whom Hartley is still under contract -- to speak to the Hawkesbury native, who won the Stanley Cup behind the bench of the Avalanche in 2001.
Hartley was let go as coach by Thrashers GM Don Waddell after the club opened the season with six straight losses.
Senators GM Bryan Murray, who fired coach John Paddock in February and took over behind the bench, does not want to coach next season. Murray has started doing the preliminary work to put together a list of candidates, of which Hartley will be one. It is likely Murray will also talk to former Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn and former Gatineau resident Pat Burns, who won the Cup with the Devils in 2003 and has successfully battled cancer.
Hartley, who is working as an analyst for the RDS network during the playoffs, said he was reluctant to discuss the situation and didn't want to presume any interest from the Senators.
"For years, the Senators have built this team proudly. Being from Hawkesbury, to have a chance to coach the team in your area would be special, but at the same time, it's Bryan that has the answer," he said a few minutes before Saturday night's game between the Canadiens and Flyers.
Certainly one of the keys to Hartley's candidacy would be his relationship with Senators winger Dany Heatley. Hartley coached the Thrashers when Heatley played in Atlanta and the winger ended up requesting a trade in the aftermath of the car accident in which teammate Dan Snyder, a passenger in the car Heatley was driving, was killed. Heatley sustained a serious knee injury.
There has been speculation the relationship between Heatley and Hartley was cool.
"That's absolutely false," said Hartley. "I spent three or four times a week at the hospital with Dany. My wife was cooking dinner for the entire family and taking the dinners to the hospital to give them a break from hospital food. When his rehab started, every morning at eight o'clock, I was the one with him.
"Instead of one of my assistants going, I felt as the head coach of the organization it was my job to show support to my player. My primary reason was something tragic happened in his life and I wanted him to know 'you have lots of people around you to support you and I'm one of them.' "
In his role as an analyst, Hartley said he sees the Senators as a team that could still be on the rise.
"You look at the pieces, they have unbelievable good, young players. (Jason) Spezza and Dany are still young players. I think they have an unbelievable leader in (Daniel) Alfredsson. They have a pretty solid blue line. Young (Nick) Foligno showed in the playoffs he's a real one. (Mike) Fisher, (Chris) Neil ... I love Neil. I asked Don Waddell for Neil in that trade for Dany Heatley. They have some guys who can play a good role for the Senators when it comes to grinding.
"What went wrong with that team this year, I think the only people who have the answers were the people who were around the team on a day-to-day basis. It just goes to show you that a hockey team is very fragile."