Was the Release of Hartley a Surprise?

May 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Coaches are hired to be fired, it’s a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Today the Flames shocked the hockey world by letting go of the ever popular Bob Hartley, a season removed from a Jack Adams award, and about 13 months after the Flames extended his contract.

Nobody saw this coming … or did they?

The hints were certainly there to be seen.


Coaches get fired. Hartley has been on the job in Calgary for four years, which puts him 2nd all time in Calgary Flames history for duration, an accomplishment to be sure. If you’re a task master of any flavour your time is numbered the second you are hired, as players eventually tune out.

His Caddy:

This is an observation from a point of ignorance, but what did Jacques Cloutier do for the Flames? The man has been at Hartley’s side for three straight jobs, but not once have I heard exactly what the man does. I’ve heard Gelinas is the special teams guy which is interesting given that he was retained today, but what does Cloutier do? Could it be that Hartley would have been better served with a top notch technical assistant instead of a life long friend.

Bruce Boudreau’s Exit:

The exit of another coach in another city can certainly speed up the process for an organization. Last week the Ducks let go Bruce Boudreau, one of the most successful coaches of his generation. Could certainly be a coincidence, but with a vacancy in Ottawa and the fact that Boudreau hails from the nearby area certainly suggests the Flames had better clear space and get cracking if they want to get into the bidding war.

Losing the Room?:

We saw less work ethic from the Flames this season. Their never say die attitude became a sometimes never say die game to game inconsistency. Add in some guys late to a practice and you start wondering if maybe the respect behind the bench was starting to wither behind the scenes in Calgary. Tough coaches lose their voice after three years, or at least that’s the rule. Perhaps Hartley ran his course in Calgary.

Same Page?

I personally found exit interview day in Calgary very telling when it came to Brad Treliving, and his coach Bob Hartley and how on the same page they seem to be. Sure Treliving was hesitant to endorse the man which will always cause a stir in the media, but something that we see often as GMs never want to go on record even if they feel they could or even should. But the opinion of what needs to change between the men were very much polar opposite.

Treliving talked to possession and having the puck more. Hartley wanted a return to proficiency in blocking shots, and winning more face offs in their own zone. All three things can be done in tandem to some degree, but they don’t line up on an off season to do list.

Not My Guy:

Hockey people, heck sports people like to have their people in place. When the order gets mixed up in an organization you tend to get a slow move toward rectifying the situation over a season or two. Brian Burke came to Calgary and didn’t have his GM or his coach in place. Not too far down the road Feaster was removed and his guy Treliving was hired. Treliving held on two years, but today’s announcement means Feaster’s coach is now on the pavement looking for a job, letting Treliving make his hire and return order to the organization’s hierarchy.

But the biggest one for me?

Rebuild Timing:

I think this is another sign that the process in Calgary didn’t go as planned. Or at least it didn’t go as slowly as the plan was expected to be carried out.

We saw it in the Flames free agent signings two years ago; when Brad Treliving filled out his roster with character, spending money to get to the floor without making the team too good in the process. It looked like a club adding the likes of Hiller (2 sub number one goaltenders in the fold), Raymond (local guy good story), and Engelland (great in the room and over paid) to get the culture right but not win right away.

Instead the team makes the playoffs and suddenly these contracts were in the way of adding to a young core that was developing way faster than anyone expected. The 2013 first pick wasn’t supposed to score 20 goals in his draft year. The phenom from college wasn’t supposed to score 20 and then be a top ten scorer in year 2. TJ Brodie wasn’t expected to become all world in Treliving’s first season in Calgary. And Dougie Hamilton shouldn’t have landed in the Flame’s lap.

It’s one thing to let a good guy, and a great culture coach man the wheel in a rebuild, but are you just as comfortable when you look at the roster and think the team should be winning now, and not two more years down the road.

With a core of Giorano, Brodie, Hamilton, Bennett, Gaudreau and Monahan, this organization shouldn’t waste years of winning to keep to an antiquated timeline of what the rebuild should be.

I think we saw that today.

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