Hartsburg vs. Clouston

When examining a roster, a coach has to identify the strengths, and the weaknesses.  After watching the Sens collapse from the mid season point of the previous year, to their 4 game sweep in the post season, Hartsburg chose to focus on playing around the teams weakness, defense.  I honestly question how much choice he had in this.  Everyone from media, to fans, to management had pointed to a lack of cohesive defense as a key reason why the high scoring Sens could not convert goals to wins.  Everyone assumed the goal scoring would continue, and if the defense was improved, the ship would right itself.

Counter-intuitive – Adj. –  counter to what intuition would lead one to expect.   See 08/09 Ottawa Senators.


GF/G -2.40

GA/G – 2.90

P% – .427

Shots/G (+/ -) – +.833

Hartsburg focused hard on defense.  The result was improved defense, over that of the previous season (2.95 GA/G), but at a terminal cost to their offense.  He cut off the Sens nose, to spite their face.

The Ferrari offense of Heatley and Spezza were asked to focus on defense.  This meant staying in the defensive zone, carrying the puck out, and once possession changed, immediately back checking.

Suddenly 1+1=1.

The team looked lazy, always backing up, never moving forward, or attacking the puck.  The forwards were frustrated, feeling completely out of place.  The defenseman were constantly forced to react to the opposition, never able to assert pressure on the opposition by forcing them to react to Senators puck possession.  And the key when playing a defense first system is good goaltending, and the Sens didn’t get enough, and when easy goals are going in you must be able to score  if you expect to have any hope of winning.

As it was going off the rails, Hartsburg openly spoke more and more about how his team was unwilling to compete, and work hard.

Yet still his practices were short, his days off were many, and his system remained in place.

It was an unmitigated disaster.

Enter Clouston.

GF/G -3.17

GA/G – 2.78

P% – .674

Shots/G (+/ -) – +1.35

In many ways Clouston inherited a team on the precipice.  A patient on life support.  A sinking ship in stormy waters.

He took control.  No vacillating, or cow towing, he stepped in, laid out the game plan, and stuck to it.  Luckily, it was the right game plan.  He also instilled a much harder work ethic by running up tempo practices, and providing far fewer days off.  He brought this team back to the form they were in under Murray, a form that was the envy of the NHL.

Clouston instilled a roster friendly offense first system, utilizing a rapid transition and aggressive puck possession strategy.  This was a system that played to his teams strength, mitigating their weakness, vs the opposite while under Hartsburg.

But he no doubt also had the advantage of providing this system to a team eager for change, and one well schooled in defensive responsibility.  Timing does matter.

Suddenly 1+1=3

Last nights game, to me, displayed a crystal clear example of the difference in the style of play the two latest Sens coaches brought to the ice.  Under Hartsburg, Kuba would have never pinched in to the circle, and been available to take advantage of Alfredssons elite offensive ability.  In all likelihood Alfie would have had to select among forcing a down low pass to a covered man, a low percentage shot, or re-cycle the puck to another forward facing the same poor list of options.

Safe is death.

Hartsburg is gone.



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