Monday

Craig Hartsburg

Craig Hartsburg was an elite NHL defenseman who had his career derailed by injuries. His medical chart includes games lost due to a broken leg, multiple knee operations, herniated discs in his back, pulled groins, hernia, separated shoulder and finally an infected ankle that finally forced him to retire.

Before the injuries riddled him, Hartsburg was a wonderful rushing defenseman. He was an excellent skater, extremely mobile laterally in particular. He would often rush the puck out of the zone, sometimes recklessly and leading to injury susceptibility.

As his career progressed he reigned in his rushing game and proved to be a fantastic passing defenseman, clearing the zone with proficiency but starting the transition offense expertly as well. He also knew how to quarterback a power play. His vision and creativity allowed him to move the puck into the slimmest of passing lanes, and he naturally knew when to pinch to keep the zone.

But his low, hard shot was his real weapon. He wasn't the hardest shooting point man, but always got the puck through traffic and on the net. His shot was also always perfect for tipping and rebounds.

Despite what his penalty minutes may suggest, Hartsburg was not known as a physical defenseman. He was strong and big, and used that to his advantage to defend. He was not a big splashy hitter, instead relying more on muscles and angles to steer opponents to the boards where he would pin them.

Hartsburg was very sound defensively, playing his defensive angles well and reading the rush well back into his own zone. His active stick broke up a lot of oncoming breaks.

Despite his skills package, Hartsburg is often forgotten about in discussions revolving around the top defensemen of the 1980s. Lost time due to injury certainly have something to do with that, as does Minnesota's lack of success after 1981. If it wasn't for his extremely successful coaching career, modern fans may never have heard of this great defender from the 1980s.

In 570 games, all with the North Stars, Hartsburg scored 98 goals, 315 assists and 413 points while collecting 818 penalty minutes.

2 comments:

Pez,  February 25, 2008 at 4:54 PM  

Awesome! The dude sound like Bobby Orr!

Anonymous,  September 11, 2009 at 7:18 PM  

I grew up with Craig Hartsburg, He was a good ball player as well. I vote for him to make the Hall some day.

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