It looked like a funeral when Bryan Murray, wearing a dark suit, delivered the news that coach Craig Hartsburg had been fired -- a casualty of the Senators' disastrous season.
Hartsburg got the news only a few hours after Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Washington Capitals. Binghamton coach Cory Clouston will take over the Senators for the rest of the season.
"It's a sad day," said Murray, who met with Hartsburg after the club's plane landed late Sunday following a 1-2 road trip. "When we started this year, we all believed this group would be a good team and we had fairly high expectations. We kept hoping that we would rebound from a shaky start and that just didn't seem to be taking place."
While Hartsburg, 49, had promised accountability when he took over less than eight months ago, he couldn't deliver and the club's 17-23-7 record just wasn't good enough for Murray's liking.
"I felt after watching a number of games lately that we just weren't making any progress," said Murray. "We were struggling to keep up. We weren't a very co-ordinated group. (Hartsburg) understood the pressure that comes in Ottawa or any Canadian city. I told him I had to make a coaching change. It was obviously emotional."
When reached last night, Hartsburg said: "It's been a really hard day for my family and I." He said he would speak further in the next few days.
While many believed former Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn would take over, Murray told a packed news conference yesterday he considered all his options -- including "veteran" coaches -- but believed Clouston, 39, was the best man for the job.
"The biggest thing we need to do right now is get some confidence back in them," said Clouston. "We can come up with any excuse or anything else we want, but right now I really don't think they have any confidence. They have a lot more potential than they are giving us. There are a few things that need to be corrected as far as the style of play we're playing.
"They need to feel good about themselves, come to the rink with some passion and to play to their potential as individuals and as a team."
Murray, who didn't consider returning as the Senators' coach for the third time, stood by his decision to bring in a guy with no track record.
"This is a good coach," said Murray of Clouston. "I say that wholeheartedly. I've watched him run drills, run practice and I've watched his team play. As you talk to the players he's had in Binghamton, you'll find out that he puts a plan together and we're hoping he can get these players back to where they should be."
Assistant coach Curtis Hunt was also let go and offered the opportunity to coach the team in Binghamton.
An NHL executive told Sun Media the club "lacked structure" under Hartsburg and the work ethic had slipped.
"He got fired, so obviously he couldn't get the most out of us," said captain Daniel Alfredsson.