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At the Helm: The Greg Gilbert Era Begins in Calgary

D'Arcy McGrath

August 10, 2001

Greg Gilbert took over the reigns for the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline last season.

On the books he coached the team down the stretch, but in many ways the Greg Gilbert chapter in Calgary will begin with this autumn's training camp.

A coaching replacement in mid-season is much like yanking your starting goaltender for his backup.

The damage has already been done, and the deficit too large to overcome; the guy is essentially mopping up the game, and trying to earn the next start.

Gilbert earned the next start.

Hindsight Essential

One of Gilbert's greatest advantages is the fact that he was an assistant coach, and witnessed the fall by Don Hay.

He was around to see which players played the largest role in getting Hay his early walking papers. He is well aware of which players can be counted upon in his first season.

In concert with general manager Craig Button, Gilbert has been able to move out some of the players that may have caused some of the problems.

He's left with a roster with a greater sense of chemistry.

One of the biggest issues will be how fast he manages to sew the new parts together.

"The key is to lay down the rules early, make sure every player is aware of what is expected of him", Gilbert told

He doesn't foresee a problem working as many as six new faces into a line up of 20 players.

"In the AHL I had to work up to 12 new faces in some years, guys understand their roles".

Defence Key

The make up of the team has changed greatly since Gilbert took over in mid March.

As a group the Flames are now larger, faster, and more mature, all factors that should lead to more success on the ice with the right systems in place.

"We were getting pushed around last year, this year we will be bigger", added Gilbert.

"To use that speed effectively we will have a more aggressive system in place this year, the key is timing".

"Look at the Devils they know when to press and when not to. We think we have the speed to jump on teams and force turn overs."

Much like his boss, Gilbert was quick to dismiss the offensive shortcomings made possible with the departure of Val Bure and Cory Stillman.

"We need many players to step up, not too many teams depend on more than one or two guys. Collectively we will be stronger."

Goal Setting

As a coach Gilbert believes short-term goals are more effective than long-term goals in helping to guide a team.

He envisions five game segments throughout the season to act as a barometer for the team's success.

"Short term goals are better in keeping the team's focus", eluded Gilbert.

"We'll be establishing goals in terms of five games, and with the schedule this season that only amounts to about 10 days".

"The higher the goals the better, the sky's the limit if you believe in yourself".

A New Beginning

No one would suggest that front office firings are a good sign, but in the case of a head coach losing his job the onus often shifts back to the players.

It's often said that it's easier to fire one coach than it is to replace twenty-three players, but once the one man is jettisoned the players have to step up and take some responsibility themselves.

The summer is a time for optimism, with personnel and fans from all cities expecting improvement with the upcoming season.

The hard fact of the Calgary situation is that Greg Gilbert has inherited a non-playoff team, a team that hasn't seen the post season for five long years.

Even the most optimistic onlooker must realize things won't be easy.

Many prognostications appearing on the Internet this summer have the Flames actually stepping backward, and not making any strides this season.

Greg Gilbert doesn't read too much into it.

"Reputations can change very quickly".

They'd better, because in Calgary we've seen so to can the coaching staff.