OTTAWA – The Cory Clouston era in Ottawa started the same way the Craig Hartsburg one ended: with a loss.
With Clouston making his NHL coaching debut, the Senators went out and showed there’s still plenty of work to be done in Ottawa after getting shut out 1-0 by the Los Angeles Kings on home ice.
Earlier on Tuesday, a day after being fired just 48 games into his coaching tenure in Ottawa, Hartsburg spoke to the media and took more than his share of the blame for the team’s dismal performance this season.
“I’m not the type of person to make excuses or blame others. I look in the mirror first and I feel I’ve let my family down, I feel I’ve let the organization down,” he told reporters during an afternoon conference call.
The loss to the Kings wasn’t the start that Clouston had hoped for but he said he saw some encouraging signs in his new team.
“It would be a lot better if it was a win,” Clouston said a day after being promoted from the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton. “I’m disappointed in the outcome, but I think as the game progressed, we did a lot of good things”.
“We played as a team for the most part. Obviously, our guys are still fighting the stick to create some offensive opportunities and then to bury their chances.”
Under Hartsburg the Senators went 17-24-7, were the lowest-scoring team in the league and entered Tuesday night in 13th place in the Eastern Conference.
Back-to-back losses in Columbus and Washington on Friday and Sunday sealed Hartsburg’s fate and cleared the way for the 39-year-old Clouston.
He becomes the fourth different face behind the Ottawa bench since the team’s trip to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.
Hartsburg, 49, sounded emotional Tuesday, but refused to criticize his players or management, thanking general manager Bryan Murray for the opportunity to coach in the nation’s capital.
“I’m very disappointed in what’s happened, both in being fired and also in how our team has played,” Hartsburg said.
“I’m not here to make excuses or blame others. As a coach, I take great pride in my team’s work ethic, high level of competing and team play. I take responsibility for those not being good enough”.
“I leave here knowing that I did my best and I guess my best just wasn’t good enough.”
Unlike some recent NHL coaching casualties, Hartsburgh wished his now former team and replacement success.
“I wish the players the best. They are a good group of guys and I hope they can turn thing around very quickly. I wish Cory the best. I hope a different voice makes a difference.”
It didn’t Tuesday night against a team ranked near the bottom of the Western Conference, at least not in the win column.
It’s the second time in the past three games the team has been shut out after the Blue Jackets also beat the Senators by the same 1-0 score.
“Obviously, being snake-bitten around the net, you can tell we’re just fighting the puck,” Clouston said.
But for a team criticized for sitting back too much and having trouble breaking out of it’s zone, Clouston said it was a step forward.
“I thought we were a lot more aggressive in the neutral zone, creating some turnovers, we just didn’t take advantage of those turnovers,” he said. “At times we broke out the puck a lot better, more as units as opposed to just one man.”