The Montreal media believe Bob Hartley was destined to coach the Canadiens. But he landed in Calgary with his old friend Jay Feaster instead, tasked with the very large job of reviving an aging and underskilled team.
“I’m not looking back,” Hartley told reporters at his introductory news conference. “I’m not here to run autopsies. To assign blame. To pick apart what went wrong. I’m not interested in the past. I’m looking forward.”
Let’s look at the challenges he faces:
- Convince long-time Flames captain Jarome Iginla that this once-proud franchise can become relevant again. Hartley proved adept at handling elite players during his earlier stints in Colorado (Joe Sakic, Ray Bourque) and Atlanta (Ilya Kovalchuk).
- Help Mike Cammalleri become a top gun again. The former 39-goal scorer tallied just 19 and 20 his last two seasons. After returning from Calgary in a trade with Montreal last season, he scored 11 goals in 28 games. So there is hope.
- Revive playmaking winger Alex Tanguay. Hartley had him in Colorado when Alex was fresh out of junior hockey. “He’s very hard,” Tanguay told the Calgary Herald. “A very demanding coach. But he’s also on the money. As far as matchups, systems, details. Everything. I’m looking forward to playing for him again. And I think Calgary fans will get to know him and appreciate him.”
- Develop top prospect Sven Baertschi. The Swiss-born star of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks got a taste of the NHL last season on an emergency recall. Baertschi, the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft, scored 94 points in 47 games at the major junior level this season. He has the skill the Flames desperate need up front, but he knows he will have to earn his opportunity with Hartley. “He knows exactly what he wants,” Baertschi told the Herald. “You know how he said he doesn’t want to waste talent with the young players? I guess he’s really trying to push young guys and I think that’s good.”
Former NHL forward Jeff Tambellini flourished playing for Hartley in Zurich this season. He told the Herald that he expects Hartley to get the most out of the top Flames.
“Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay . . . I’d be shocked if those guys don’t have outstanding years,” Tambellini told the Herald. “Tanguay is going to love playing for Bob Hartley again. I look at Mike Cammalleri and I can see him scoring 40 goals because Bob Hartley’s going to get the best out of him. He knows that if his best players are his best players, they’ve got a great chance to win. Jarome will probably love Bob because not only will he want him to be the best player on the team, he’ll want him to be the best player in the league. He’ll want him to score 50 goals this year.
“His philosophy is: ‘You’re a top player? Good. Go be a top player.’ That’s why he’s had such success coaching great players. He’ll treat Mike Cammalleri like he treated Joe Sakic. A shooter, an offensive threat who’s good in his own zone.
“He’ll give those guys responsibility. He’ll lean on them. I think you’ll see a huge difference in both those guys because Bob will hand them the ball, play them a ton, and let them run with it. I can’t see them not really, really enjoying having him as their coach.”