Five things: A wild coaching candidate appears!



1. This makes almost too much sense

On Friday, George Johnson floated a particularly interesting balloon regarding the Flames’ vacant coaching position, positing that the team might be waiting so long to make any noise with regard to the opening because the guy they want is still participating in the playoffs. Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan might be the guy that gets the most serious look, apparently, and that is so logical and good an idea that I can’t believe it took anyone this long to mention it.

Sullivan is, if nothing else, a very good and likely candidate because he’s been around the league, and has obviously been quite successful in his role as the Blueshirts’ go-to game-management guys.  And his current boss in New York is, of course, a guy Jay Feaster is quite familiar with: John Tortorella.

If Feaster likes the way Torts coaches — and why wouldn’t he, given the Stanley Cup and all — he could probably milk a similar system with Sullivan, and that’s style of play that could probably be shaped to be at least a little successful given the Flames current roster mix of not-very-good vets and younger up-comers, backed by a stalwart netminder (though for how much longer?).

The knock on Sullivan is obviously that he got fired from his first and only NHL head coaching job, that with the Boston Bruins in the two seasons bookending the lockout. And, probably, justifiably so. After winning the Northeast and having the best record in the conference with 104 points, his Bruins crashed out in a 1-8 first-round matchup with the Habs, and he followed that performance with a 74-point campaign. Not the proudest record.

But that was, of course, seven years ago, and more importantly, the bad record that first year was pretty much the opposite of his fault. It was during that season, you’ll recall, that Joe Thornton was traded after scoring 33 points in 23 games because he was a "disappointment" or whatever, and the team was, from that point, led by a 20-year-old Patrice Bergeron, Brad Boyes, and the ghost of Glen Murray. It was backstopped by a battery of a not-yet-worldbeating Tim Thomas, Andrew Raycroft, and Hannu Toivonen. No one could win with that team.

To wit: The next season, the Bruins added Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard, but new and not-yet-brilliant GM in Peter Chiarelli elected to hire Dave Lewis as coach, and he only managed 76 points.

Sullivan would almost certainly be a good fit behind the bench for the Flames, but mostly because he would be a good fit anywhere.

2. Yes, idiots still write into newspapers

Speaking of the Herald, I, as an American, was positively delighted to read this letter to the editor in it over the weekend.

It was simply entitled: "Flames should Hire a Canadian." Which is of course dumb. The stated reason for this dumb assertion by an idiot named Diane Parker, is to "protect one of [Canada’s] greatest assets."

God I hate this crap.

As Parker, who, again, is a dumbo, points out, the Flames have Americans in positions of power throughout the organization, from GM to AHL coaches. And therefore, apparently to counterbalance that many stupid American morons who suck at their jobs (that’s the tone at least), the team should engage in tokenism and hire a brilliant Canadian.

"Americans are not better qualified for these Flames positions. Do the Flames feel no obligation to employ qualified Canadians?" she wrote, probably in crayon.

The issue, of course, is that Americans are probably also not less-qualified for these Flames positions. And the Flames’ only obligation to the club is to hire guys that work well within it. If that means hiring another American (both Troy Ward, who was extemely successful this year despite the crime and handicap of being not-Canadian, and Sullivan fit that bill), then so be it. If it means hiring a Slovak, then that’s fine too.

Just a hunch here, but if everyone is American, maybe they feel better hiring Americans because they come from similar backgrounds and have a better working understanding of each other? No? Okay.

(Late addendum: A person on Twitter suggests that this might be the same Diane Parker who co-owns the Regina Pats. The Pats have no Americans on their roster and, perhaps consquently, weren’t very good this season.)

3. Is anyone else sick of the Rangers’ act?

And speaking of the Rangers, I really hope they lose to New Jersey. It has nothing to do with the whole Sullivan thing.

I’m just tired of seeing them start acting like crybabies when a game isn’t going their way. They got pretty well tuned up by the Devils in Tuesday’s Game 3, and that prompted Mike Rupp to take a run at one player, then swing at Marty Brodeur on his way to the box, which earned him a misconduct. Stupid, petulant crap I’ve come to expect from a team that sure does love to sulk when things go south.

Not that there weren’t flops all around by the Devils, but I was deeply embarrassed to watch Tortorella get in a shouting match with Pete DeBoer over who-knows-or-indeed-cares-what. The guy’s a brilliant coach, but everything he does that isn’t directly related to making his team play awesome defensive systems is grating and tiresome.

4. What to make of Laurent Brossoit?

Gotta think this is something the Flames are loving. A 19-year-old goaltender (who won’t even turn 20 until March of next season) backstopping his team to a Memorial Cup appearance after running up against the juggernaut Portland WinterHawks in the WHL championship series.

His stats in the Memorial Cup haven’t been great, but that’s because, by all accounts, his team hasn’t been very good. Gotta think he gets another crack at ‘er next season, and that’s pretty great.

5. On the upcoming draft

Brossoit was also kind of the centerpiece of an interesting story on the Flames’ official site about how Tod Button and the management staff evaluate players at the scouting combine. (Gotta say this for the Flames site: they do a lot more interesting content than most other NHL teams in-house.)

Apparently about 90 percent of their evaluations on draft-eligible players are done, and attending the Memorial Cup is almost a formality for the team as far as its decisions on kids go. Far more important is the combine, which fills in off-ice question marks and does a better job of testing fitness than a game might overall, and the information gleaned there was far more critical to the Flames’ selecting him in the sixth round than anything they saw from him in the regular season.

"(Flames strength and conditioning coach Rich Hesketh) was helpful last year with Laurent Brossoit," Button told the official site. "He told us what an athlete he was. We liked him as an athlete, as a goalie and also his character, his compete effort. We thought in the sixth round, here’s a kid with a tireless work ethic and he’s really athletic. You get him with the right goalie coach, he has something to build his game around. There’s value in stuff like that."

Pretty interesting stuff, hey?
  • I would be very interested to know how teams generally judge stuff like work ethic and character. Is it gut feel or do they have metrics? I would also like to know how well things like fitness level and “raw athletic ability” generally correlate with future success in the NHL.

    The issue is, you see good stories like this after the fact and things like “work ethic” get a big check mark because a 6th rounder has apparently worked out. Im guessing they don’t get big red X’s if you chose, say, Kris Chucko or Kris Hogg or Nick Larson for the same reasons though.

    It’s entirely possible NHL teams have systematic ways of breaking this down as they track a players development though. If so, I’d be curious to know how.

    On other hand, they may look for the same thing in every kid and only make a mental note when things work out.

  • Jason Gregor

    I’d assume that is why the Flames maybe took a risk with Gaudreau as well. But in the fourth round you might as well and look how it is panning out! Do you think the Flames need to go with Best Position Available strategy or should they be addressing their need of RW’s?

  • agreed on the NYR whining non stop, but a team is a refelction of the coach! Tort’s is a douche!
    Phoneix worried more about the officiating than the Kings….look where they are!?
    Kind of surprising out of Phoneix with a quality coach like Tippet, but his team also became a reflection of his whining. The Kings were far and away the better squad

  • everton fc

    Perhaps Darryl’s simply a better coach than Tippett, when it counts?

    That’s how I see it…

    As for Tortarella, here’s hoping Marty Brodeur gets at least a chance to lift the Cup vs. the Kings…

  • Gange

    Nice to see that the Oilers place far less value on the combine. I guess when you have the first pick you figure it’s a slam dunk? Tambellini and Lowe are exactly what a Flames fan wants in an Oilers management staff! 🙂

  • RexLibris

    @ Gange

    How exactly have the Oilers placed less emphasis on the combine?

    On another note, regarding Lambert’s comments on Diane Parker’s letter to the editor, while I agree with Lambert that merit should be rewarded over patriotic bias, isn’t this the same team that chose to put not only national flags but also provincial markers on their sweaters?

    I love reading your five things, Ryan. Keep them coming.

    • Gange

      Read Robin Brownlee’s article yesterday (perhaps before that) which indicates that the Oilers used to take many people to the combine for evaluation but have instead gone with a greatly reduced contingent but with Tambellini and Lowe doing interviews.

      “The Oilers used to send a horde of scouts to the NHL’s combine, but they’ve cut down on the size of the contingent in recent years. Expect MacGregor, Brad Davis, director of research analysis Sean Draper, Tambellini and Lowe to attend this edition.”

  • RexLibris


    I read Brownlee’s article, and that comment did stand out for me, but to extrapolate from that detail that the Oilers no longer place a priority on the combine is something of a leap.

    Years ago when the Buffalo Sabres dropped their scouting staff numbers down and focused on video scouting many people scoffed and said that they were obviously reducing the importance of scouting and drafting.

    In truth they were merely limiting the number of eyeballs that had to traipse about seeing all of these prospects and using video to help with a more detailed analytical scouting report.

    I’m not going to argue that I think many Flames fans feel comforted that Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini are the ones orchestrating the rebuild in Edmonton. Just as many Oiler fans feel quite comfortable in the knowledge that if either of Iginla or Kiprusoff is traded, it will be Feaster drawing up the negotiations.

    Alberta can boast many things right now, elite NHL management isn’t at the top of that list.

  • RexLibris

    @ Kent – I think the questions of character and work ethic become important when you have 2 or more prospects that can’t be separated based on talent/skill levels.

    At that stage it would be incredibly useful to know what their off-ice conditioning and nutritional habits are, as well as how they treat people and behave away from the rink.

    Which may sound kind of weird in a way, but if you know that a slightly more talented kid treats fans with disdain, acts like an @$$, has substance abuse issues at 17 and is a lazy so-and-so, would you still take him over a slightly less talented player who trains like a crazy man, eats well, is polite to everyone he meets, etc.? Maybe an extreme example, but you get my point. I’m not sure if a team can ever have enough info when it comes to evaluating a player.

    There are no stats for work ethic or character, but surely the stats that do exist are at least partially the result of these things, no?

    • Sure, but the issue is how well people can intuit those qualities and to what degree those things actually predict a person’s behaviors at 17 versus 20, 25, etc.

      There are plenty of studies out there that show how terrible things like open-ended interviews and initial impressions of people are at forecasting performance in a given job down the road.

      In addition, there actually is such as thing as too much information. There is a psychological process called the dilution effect where irrelevant or marginally relevant data can actually interfere or weaken judgements.

      I’ve discussed much of this stuff in the past:

      As you say, in general fact finding about prospects is a good thing. The issue is to ensure you are gathering info that actually predicts future performance in a useful manner. Otherwise your filters may be misaligned.

  • @ Kent – agreed. You’re right, you can hit the point of overload in general or start considering things that should be irrelevant.

    I also agree with interviews – hate them. You can probably guess why. But I was thinking of a more ‘stealth’ approach to determining some of those things.

  • I support having a long look at Mike Sullivan as the bench boss for the Flames. And, of course, we have to wait until the Rangers are eliminated or the playoffs are finished.

    I liked him as a player–an honest, hard worker and he brought his best to the rink night in and night out. And its understood that he brings similar characteristics to coaching. Hopefully he will be able to instill that in those wearing Flames livery.

    More importantly, I hope that we keep Troy Ward either in Abbotsford working with an improving crop of talent in the system or as an assistant.

    As an important part of the coaching question, what are the contractual situations with Craig Hartsburg and Garth Malarchuk? They are good people and meshing with the new guy will be important.