Flames Name Hartley Bench Boss

May 31st, 2012 | Posted in Commentary
By: D'Arcy McGrath

But I thought he was going to Montreal?

It was too obvious wasn’t it? Jay Feaster’s old friend, god-father to his son, … he wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t hire the “in” guy, the obvious guy.

Yes yes he would, and that fact was made official late this morning when the Flames called a 12.30pm press conference to introduce Bob Hartley as the new head coach for the Calgary Flames.

Was it a good hire? Is he the right guy for the job? Is there a right guy for the job?

These questions and many more will likely go unanswered until the middle of November I’d imagine, and meanwhile hockey fans can continue to argue and debate whether coaching has ever been the problem in Calgary. That debate may never end.

Bob Hartley the Coach

I was very middle of the road on Hartley the candidate, and now Hartley the head coach. I wasn’t as upset as I was when Mike Keenan was hired, nor am I as optimistic and positive as I was when Brent Sutter was hired. I guess in the end Keenan achieved more than Sutter, so perhaps I’m the last guy to ask when it comes to gauging a coaching move.

His resume has a lot of winning. Winning in the AHL, winning in the NHL, and winning over seas. It’s hard not to like that.

On first blush I guess I don’t find a 2001 Stanley Cup in Denver all that impressive as their roster and salary size advantage in the pre-lockout NHL certainly gave them an advantage. However, we’ve seen great rosters in that era not win a cup and the man did get it done, so you have to give him some credit in that regard.

His record in Atlanta with the future Winnipeg Jets was more impressive as he took over at mid-season, turned the team around, and then put together three straight improving seasons before getting canned just 6 games into the 2007-08 season. I think that says more about his coaching record.

Alex Tanguay gave him a lot of credit for not only teaching him how to be an NHL hockey player, but also helping him find his way when he had lost his way in Montreal.

Former NHLer Jeff Tambellini had nothing but good things to say about the job he did in Switzerland, offering such gems as …

“I’ve never had a coach who has wanted to win so bad, he’ll do anything to win. That’s where you hear about how he pushes guys and makes them uncomfortable, but he just wants to win so bad that he’ll push as many buttons as it takes. It’s hard but I can respect that. You know where you stand with him. He has a relationship with each of his players and he cares about each person. He works with the young guys, but he also challenges them to be better.”

But will that work in Calgary?

I’m firmly on the Brent Sutter wasn’t to blame for the problems with the Flames bandwagon. I respected the guy. I think it pained him that the team was so inconsistent, that they didn’t stick to his game plan, that the only time they actually played well was when they were decimated with injuries and had a roster full of youth that knew nothing but listen.

Will they listen to Hartley?

I’m just not sure. I have my doubts to be honest.

Darryl Sutter scared the tar out of them in 2004 and it worked famously. He arrived in Los Angeles and did the same thing as notable players like Doughty have essentially admitted the fear in the media. A strong hand is certainly needed in Calgary, and with that you have to be glad they didn’t bring in a buddy buddy coach and did go with a strong personality.

The other candidate of note; AHL coach Troy Ward sent two players to the sidelines this season – one for a lack of conditioning, the other for an attitude and wardrobe/haircut/style problem. Would that act work with NHL veterans? It might have.

At the end of the day the move is another brick in the case being made that suggests the Flames still haven’t realized they are in a rebuild. That saddens me. I think this team may be stuck in the sand until retirements force their hand into a new generation, not when logic and and smart management take them there.

Hartley won’t hurt the process any more, and maybe if he’s good with young players he’ll be a good addition to that next generation; one that likely won’t start for another 36 months.

Either way hopefully the godfather relationship doesn’t result in the same disaster as the brother relationship that was supported in the last hire; or perhaps it will be the GM once again departing before his coach.

time will tell.


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