Good guy Craig Hartsburg is taking on an expanded, specialized role with the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League. The former standout defenseman and successful coach with the Ontario Hockey League Soo Greyhounds will do some amateur scouting for Columbus and assist in the development of top Blue Jacket defense prospects.
The 60-year old Hartsburg retired as the Blue Jackets associate coach in 2016 and has done some sporadic, special assignment scouting for them since then.
Now, Hartsburg will take on added duties under Columbus director of player personnel Basil McRae while continuing to reside with his wife, Peggy, in their Sault Ste. Marie area home.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” Hartsburg told Hockey News North. “I get to do some scouting and help develop some of the young defense prospects that Columbus has … and I get to work out of the Sault and still watch my grand kids play hockey. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
Officially, Hartsburg will hold the titles of defense development coach and amateur scout for Columbus while reporting to McRae and Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.
It was after last month’s NHL draft when Hartsburg went to Columbus to help out at the Blue Jackets prospect development camp that he was asked to take on more of an official role with the team.
“I am excited for the opportunity,” said Hartsburg, who spent four seasons in Columbus as associate coach under current Blue Jackets bench boss John Tortorella. “I have a good relationship with Torts, Basil, Jarmo and the people there.”
As part of his duties as defense development coach, Hartsburg will first be at the Blue Jackets fall training camp in Traverse City, Michigan. Then, once the 2019-2020 season gets underway, he will spend some time working with defensemen with the Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League farm team, the Cleveland Monsters.
“Player development is more specialized now than it has ever been,” Hartsburg noted.
From the scouting end of it, Hartsburg said he will take on assignments from McRae that may include evaluating college and OHL players who are free agents.
Hartsburg will also be keeping tabs on Swedish defenseman Eric Hjorth — a fourth-round pick of the Blue Jackets at the 2019 NHL — who has since signed with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Hjorth, who has a 2001 birth date, was Sarnia’s first-round pick, 17th overall, at the recent Canadian Hockey League import draft.
At any rate, Hartsburg’s association with hockey has been both lengthy and noteworthy.
His eventful 27-year coaching career included 19 seasons in the NHL as a head coach and associate coach and successful stints as a bench boss in both the OHL and Western Hockey League.
And as a player, Hartsburg had a world-class career as an all-star defenseman with both the Greyhounds of the OHL and the erstwhile Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He was captain of the Greyhounds for two of his three OHL seasons and was captain of the North Stars for seven of his 10 NHL seasons before a series of knee injuries ended his spectacular playing career.
To be sure, one might say that as a hockey person, Hartsburg was born to be a leader and a teacher.
PHOTO: Craig Hartsburg, during his NHL coaching days with the Columbus Blue Jackets.