Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 11/16/14

It was 23 years ago, almost to the day, when the Calgary Flames last hoisted the Stanley Cup, defeating the Montreal Canadiens in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final in six games. Now, more than two decades later, the Flames once again beat their old rivals to the punch, naming Bob Hartley as their new head coach.
Flames GM Jay Feaster welcomed Hartley at a news conference in Calgary Thursday, signing his longtime friend to a three-year-deal to be the team’s new bench boss. Hartley, who had been hotly rumored to become Montreal’s newest head coach, instead chose to return to the NHL with Calgary after a five-year coaching hiatus in the league.
The move reunites the 51-year-old Hartley with Feaster, the two having first achieved success in similar capacities in the AHL in the late 90’s with the Hershey Bears, where they won the Calder Cup togetherin 1997. The two have remained close since, with Hartley being named godfather to Feaster’s second-youngest son, Ryan.
With the hiring move of Hartley, a new era has officially arrived in Calgary. Gone for good are the Sutters, notably Darryl and Brent, whose best before dates had long expired on the Red Mile.

Darryl, who stepped down as VP and GM in December 2010 after eight seasons in Calgary, and only one year after hiring his brother Brent to coach the team, remains as solid a hockey man as there is in the game, evidenced by his recent run to the Cup Final with Los Angeles this spring. But his inability to get along with his brother Brent ultimately led to Darryl’s resignation and an unsettling two years for the Flames.

While Feaster would be named to replace Darryl as GM, Brent went on to become an unmitigated failure as coach, leading the Flames to three straight subpar seasons and on the outside looking in at the playoffs each year.
Now, it’s Feaster or famine.
After relieving Sutter of his coaching duties on April 12, Feaster’s move some six weeks later to hire Hartley is one designed to get the Flames back to respectability and the playoffs. Hartley, aside from his Calder Cup win in 1997, also won the Stanley Cup in Colorado in 2001, and most recently captured the National A League Championship in Switzerland this past season with the Zurich Lions.

“Bob is a winner,” said Feaster. “We are confident he is going to continue his winning ways in Calgary.”
Whether Hartley can win again in the NHL, however, remains to be seen. He hasn’t coached in the league since unceremoniously being fired by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008, after spending the better part of five seasons behind the bench there. While he is credited with leading the now-defunct Thrashers to the Southeast Division title in 2007 and subsequently their lone postseason appearance in team history (where they were swept quickly and quietly by the Rangers in four games), Hartley was let go only six games into the following season after going ohfer to start the year.

He hasn’t been heard from since. That is, until Thursday’s hiring.
While the hard-nosed Hartley will invoke a much-needed change in attitude into the Calgary locker room, Feaster’s job in ensuring a successful on-ice product next season is far from over. There are still big decisions to be made over the team’s aging superstars and whether they should stay to make a run at the postseason, or go to help rebuild the Flames for the future.

Jarome Iginla, who turns 35 this summer, and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who hits 36 in October, remain the heart and soul of the Flames and their key to making the playoffs next season. There has been speculation though that either or both players could be moved this offseason in favor of a youth movement in Calgary. But as their Albertan rival, the Edmonton Oilers, have shown, that kind of plan can take years and years to develop.
The good news for Flames fans is it doesn’t appear as if the Flames are looking to follow suit. Feaster’s move to bring in a veteran guy like Hartley is to try to help the team win now and to get them back to the playoffs next season. It’s certainly part of the reason why Feaster passed on Troy Ward, the up-and-coming head coach of the Flames' farm team in Abbottsford.
To Feaster’s credit, in Hartley, he has hired a proven coach who has won at every level and is stepping into a good situation. And if this year’s Stanley Cup Final is any proof, he could even potentially follow in the footsteps of Peter DeBoer in New Jersey or Darryl Sutter in L.A., who have both enjoyed tremendous success in their first seasons in a new city and team environment.
In today’s NHL, anything’s possible.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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