The search to end all coaching searches came to an end yesterday when the Senators settled on Craig Hartsburg.
After weeks of hearing names like former NHL coaches Pat Quinn, Pat Burns and Bob Hartley and Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer being tossed around for the Ottawa job, Senators GM Bryan Murray chose Hartsburg.
The former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and two-time gold-medal-winning Canadian world junior team bench boss served notice that the Senators had better buy into the program or they'll pay the price.
The Senators' disastrous 2007-08 season ended with a listless Ottawa team being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Penguins ... just a year after Ottawa's run to the Stanley Cup final.
The 48-year-old Hartsburg and sixth coach in Senators history is charged with straighten out that mess.
"The players will see that there's a plan and (I'm) certainly here as a coach to motivate the players to follow the plan and when the plan is not followed, there certainly will be accountability," said Hartsburg, who flew to Ottawa late Thursday with owner Eugene Melnyk after the two had dinner in the Soo. "(I) don't want to get into specifics, but trust me, there will be accountability. It will be black and white. The players will know what's right and what's wrong and they'll know the line not to cross."
The Senators hired Hartsburg just a day after reports surfaced DeBoer was the frontrunner. But sources say DeBoer expressed concern in his interview with Murray about coaching in a Canadian market. There was also a strong belief DeBoer, who was hired by the Panthers yesterday, was using the Seantors as leverage to get a better deal elsewhere.
Hartsburg never winced about coming to the Senators. Sources say he held talks with the Thrashers about their opening, but he only wanted the Ottawa job.
"It appeared to me that one guy thrived on the scrutiny, thrived on the pressure and one guy wanted the opportunity to be in Ottawa," said Murray. "Whether we agree or not, there's a little more interest in hockey than there are in some markets. With the fan support comes the need to be successful.
"This franchise has been very successful and we want to continue that trend. I just felt after talking to the last couple of candidates, Craig's history in the game (as a player) and coach along with the (experience of coaching Canada at the world juniors). I felt with him going through that pressure cooker and the fact he wanted this job badly, he was the right person and the kind of person we want here. We wanted a guy that wants to be here and wants the opportunity to lead this team to where we want to be."
Hartsburg, who has coached Chicago and Anaheim in the NHL (a 184-190-69 record), along with stops as an assistant in Minnesota and Philadelphia before returning to the Greyhounds in 2004, said he will meet with captain Daniel Alfredsson next week, then speak with other players to try to get a handle on how they're feeling going into the summer.
"The first step is to communicate with the players. I'd like to start with Daniel Alfredsson because he's the leader of the hockey club," said Hartsburg. "Part of coaching, as much as it is demanding, it's selling your ideas and your beliefs.
"This is the NHL, these are players who are very intelligent and we need to let them know the direction we're going as quickly as possible.
"I believe the players will enjoy what we're going to do. They all want to win. That's why they play in the NHL. The things that we will stress will give them the best chance to win."