For reasons nobody can comprehend, the Calgary Flames have refused to hit the “reset” button after years of sputtering.
The franchise sought incremental upgrades instead, allocating hefty payroll chunks to add veterans like Mike Cammalleri and Dennis Wideman. Patchwork roster repairs haven’t helped and the Flames are destined to miss the playoffs yet again.
They doomed themselves by losing nine straight road games, allowing 38 goals in the process. At no point this season have the Flames strung together three consecutive victories.
So why not move out the twilight-year veterans, gather some more draft picks and prospects and start anew?
That time may finally be coming – and coach Bob Hartley acknowledged that.
"Right now, there's no lying about this," he told Calgary reporters Sunday after his game-day skate. “We are in trouble, and we have to rally.
"I've been talking for a long time about a big string of wins. Well, if it doesn't happen very soon, we'll have to start preparing for other things.”
Barring a miraculous turn of events, iconic Flames winger Jarome Iginla will finally get into play. TSN reports that Iginla has given the team a list of teams he is willing to move to, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings.
Calgary Sun scribe Randy Sportak suggests defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano, should also be moved, if they are willing to waive no-movement clauses. Both would have some real value in the marketplace.
Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff probably offers less value, since most contenders seem more than comfortable with their situations in net.
The Montreal Canadiens seemed ready to hire Bob Hartley as head coach to replace interim bench boss Randy Cunneyworth. But Hartley landed in Calgary instead, with his old friend Jay Feaster, so Habs GM Marc Bergevin had to go back to his shopping list.
Is former Penguins coach Michel Therrien the new favorite? Or is well-traveled Marc Crawford and his magnificent hair the top choice for Bergevin?
Are Tampa Bay assistants Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond serious candidates? Or did they just get courtesy calls?
Is Patrick Roy out of the running, as many believe? Or, as Renaud Lavoie of RDS reports, is he still in the mix?
Bergevin isn’t tipping his hand with the hyperactive Montreal media, so the guessing game continues. But with other teams shopping for coaches and Hartley already off the board, Bergevin could make a decision within the next few days.
In fact, TSN reporter Darren Dreger believes the decision WILL be made very shortly. The consensus of experts has Bergevin going with the veteran hand, either Thierren or Crawford.
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.”
Former NHL goaltender Patrick Roy is an up-and-coming coaching candidate, thanks to his work at the major junior level.
Veteran coach Bob Hartley added to his extensive resume by taking Zurich Lions in a deep playoff run in Switzerland. His earlier success the Avalanche and Thrashers make him a prime candidate to the NHL this summer.
These two appear to be frontrunners for the Montreal opening -- although with former Canadiens Guy Carbonneau -- although new GM Marc Bergevin isn’t tipping his hand.
“I’ve been talking to people and I’m putting a list together, but it’s confidential,” Bergevin told the Montreal Gazette.
Roy is beloved in Montreal, but his lofty standing with fans and his mercurial personality could make him a difficult fit for this job. The Canadiens face a major overhaul that could take years to complete.
Hiring Roy would create quite a buzz, but this franchise doesn’t need a celebrity coach. It isn't a fledgling team in a backwater market. The Habs need a strong leader with proven vision for building competitive teams.
Carbonneau would be a great candidate . . . except for the fact he has been fired once from this job. Otherwise his playing and coaching credentials make him a solid fit.
This makes Hartley the more logical choice. He is a defensive-minded tactician, so he could get the most out of cornerstone goaltender Carey Price while the team retools.
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