When Bryan Murray hired Craig Hartsburg this summer as the Senators' new head coach, he was pretty confident Hartsburg would turn the Senators around after a horrendous finish last season.
17 games into the 2008-09 season, the Senators are sitting at the bottom on the Eastern Conference, a mere point in front of the lowly Florida Panthers and they are tied with the NY Islanders, after losing both games a back-to-back series against the latter team.
GM Bryan Murray signed Hartsburg to a three-year contract last June to replace John Paddock who had been fired in February. After a torrid start unded Paddock, the Senators stumbled, leading to his firing at the end of February. Murray, who is not known as being a patient general manager, finished the season behind the bench.
This season, the Senators have had troubles scoring goals, averaging only 2.4 goals/game after finishing 2nd overall offensively last season. Secondary scoring has been a problem all season, as Mike Fisher (2 g, 4 a, 6 points), Antoine Vermette (2 g, 2 a, 4 points) and Nick Foligno (2 g, 2a, 4 points, a team worst -11) haven't been able to get going as they are in a season-long slump.
Bryan Murray, because of the salary cap, hasn't been able to add a puck-moving defenseman nor a veteran forward (Mark Parrish anyone?) to help boost his anemic offense.
And since Bryan Murray will not fire himself because of his inability to make a trade, Craig Hartsburg is the likely scapegoat if the players don't turn things around.
Tonight in Madison Square Garden, the Cash line (Spezza, Alfredsson and Healtey) will be reunited in order to sparkplug a team that has only scored 12 goals in November (the Sens are 2-4-1 in 7 games). Rearguard Brendan Bell has also been recalled from Binghampton to help with the powerplay and the transition game.
This week will be critical for Craig Hartsburg as the Senators face the Rangers in New York tonight, before they host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and those same Rangers on Saturday night.
Should his team doesn't manage to earn 4 points out of 6, look for Bryan Murray to pull the trigger and let Craig Hartsburg go. The Senators have 4 days off next week...
For more stories about the Senators and the Northeast division, check www.nhl-northeast.com