Why Bob Hartley Should Be A Jack Adams Finalist

Sometimes, differentiating between good coaching and bad
coaching can be difficult. How much of a teams success can be directly credited
to its bench boss and how much of it comes as a result of the talent and
ability of the players actually playing the game?

I’d reckon the latter weighs far more in the grand scheme of
things than the former. However, in some cases, a coach can single-handedly be
responsible for his players playing to the full of their abilities and thus be
a major factor in their teams success.

That’s why coaches of surprise teams often win the Jack
Adams trophy, and that’s why it’s simply ludicrous to even suggest Bob Hartley
shouldn’t be a finalist for the this year’s award.

Coaching Matters

Sometimes, having a beast lineup can cover up the
insignificance of a coach to that team.

Sure, Mike Johnston is “officially” the head coach of the
Pittsburgh Penguins, but what do you really think the “C” on Sidney Crosby’s
sweater stands for? Point is, that team would play more or less the same way and
overwhelm teams with their offensive prowess regardless of Mike Johnston being
behind the bench or a Beanie Baby taking his place.

Would the Calgary Flames come back from 4 goals down in the
3rd period of Sunday’s game against Ottawa if it were anyone besides Bob
Hartley in that locker room motivating them? Probably not, because Hartley has
made a connection with this group of players that exceeds that of any
professional relationship – he’s one of them. He’s not simply a figurehead;
he’s their leader. 

While I’m not calling Joel Quenneville a bad coach by any
stretch of the imagination, the Chicago Blackhawks have been a completely
different team without Patrick Kane in the lineup, scoring under 2 goals a game
– a number unheard of in the Windy City since the Kane/Toews era began. It’s
Quenneville’s job as head coach to get the most out of his lineup – which is
still ridiculously stacked even without Kane – but to this point has been
unable to do it.

The defendants will come in droves with arguments like “what
kind of team wouldn’t fall off when their best players is injured, it’s not the
coaches the fault!”

What team? Hmm. The Calgary Flames perhaps? Mark Giordano’s significance
to the Calgary Flames exceeds even that of Kane’s to Hawks, yet the Flaming C
has yet to fall off. Sure, they’re stretched to the max on the blueline and
still playing #UnsustainableHockey, but Bob Hartley – like he’s done all year –
has managed to get the absolute max out of the lineup he’s been given to work
with.

Yeah, But Possession
Bro

While not an expert in the advanced stats field, I do
consider myself to be a proponent of them and value their relevance to the
game, but at this point they mean absolutely nothing in regards to the play of
the Calgary Flames, in my opinion at least.

The Flames don’t get buried possession wise because they’re
bad defensively per se, I’d suggest they’re one of the best defending teams in
the league, systematically. Instead, it’s because they force opponents to shoot
a lot from the perimeter, racking up a lot of Corsi and Fenwick events against
without allowing terribly large scoring threats against to generate. I’m sure
lots of people disagree with that because negative Corsi is negative Corsi, but
shot and scoring chance quality is just as, if not more, important.

Since both Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller are extremely
competent goaltenders and can deal with shots from 20 feet out, allowing a
bunch of low quality, low percentage shots against isn’t all that big of a deal.
Heck, I could probably deal with shots from that far out. Okay, maybe not, but you
get my point.

So while the Flames get “buried” possession wise every
night, they’re not getting completely dominated and are not escaping every game
by the skin of their teeth (although those types of Houdini acts still happen
from time to time).

The system Bob Hartley and Jacques Cloutier have designed for
this team has worked exceedingly well, and is crafted perfectly for the group of the
guys on this roster. There are no big names in this lineup outside of Mark
Giordano, yet they play their positions and roles perfectly and mesh together
to form a rather formidable unit. Point Hartley. 

Not A Flash In The
Pan

Bob Hartley isn’t suddenly a good coach. He didn’t just
visit howtohockey.com and learn how to turn the fourth worst team in the
National Hockey League last season into a playoff contender with little roster
turn over (albeit the changes that did occur were pretty significant).

If you recall, Bob Hartley is responsible for taking the
Atlanta Thrashers to the playoffs. Yeah, the Atlanta freaking Thrashers – otherwise
known as the SS Clusterfuck. That in itself deserves a lifetime achievement
award.

Before that, Hartley won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado
Avalanche but naturally that’s dismissed because the team was stacked and
winning one of the most prestigious trophies in sport means nothing unless your
team sucks and you pull a Cinderella Story out of your butt. But that Avs team had
to go through the Detroit Red Wings and the New Jersey Devils that year, who
accounted for 3 of the 4 Cups won between 2000 and 2003. The 4th
Cup in that time frame was in fact won by Hartley and the Avalanche. So yes,
the team was stacked, but it was no cakewalk to the championship.

Fast-forward to post-Atlanta, Hartley took up an offer to
coach the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League and won a Championship in his first
season, this time with an underdog team so it actually counts.

Point is, Hartley has had not only tangible success at every
single professional level he’s coached at, but actually has championship rings
at all three levels of pro hockey – also collecting a Calder Cup ring with Jay
Feaster, pre-NHL.

It’s not an accident he’s doing what he’s doing with the
Calgary Flames. The man deserves all the credit he’s gotten. He managed to put
out a house on fire and turn it into a desirable little bungalow in near record
time. It’s now up to management to build into a two-story house and eventually
a tower, but Hartley has done his part to lay the foundation.

But There Are Better
Candidates

Better candidates?
Sure, there are other candidates, but I’m not sure you’ll find many better candidates than Bob Hartley, this
year.

What Jon Cooper has done in Tampa Bay is impressive, but he
also has one of the best scorers in the NHL in Steven Stamkos, a Top 10 scorer
in Tyler Johnson and a Vezina caliber goaltender in Ben Bishop. It could very well
be a case of “great team masking average coach.” The award that should be going
to Tampa Bay is Executive of the Year, because Steve Yzerman is a wizard and a
half. 

Gerard Gallant has done well in Florida in his inaugural
season there, but that team hasn’t done much outside of stay within striking
distance of the Wild Card spot. If they actually find a way in, then we can
discuss this matter in more detail, because that roster is also pretty
unimpressive. Dave Cameron in Ottawa is in the same boat.

Jack Capuono in New York has been impressive, and along with
Peter Laviolette, would form my duo to fill out the nomination card with Hartley.
While both Capuono and Laviolette have superstars on their roster (Tavares and
Weber + Rinne, respectively), the rest of their roster is much like the
Flames’: young and unheralded.

In the end, as far as I can see, the only tangible way to judge
coaches is by what they do with the quality of roster they have, and so making
the playoffs with a less-than-sexy looking squad should earn you that
nomination. Especially when that squad was prognosticated to eat more dust than
even the noted dust eaters up north, in Edmonton, by nearly everybody.

Anything Else?

I asked my followers on Twitter for some issues they still
had with Bob Hartley to see if I could try and debunk the remaining beef some
still had with him and his coaching.

Popular anti-Hartley arguments included “his player usage is
bad” and “mishandling young guns”.

Well, first off, who are we to judge his player usage? Yeah,
Brandon Bollig is hot garbage but when you play the Boston Bruins, who
individually share the average weight of a small airplane, you need some beef
in your lineup to either deter, or defend your munchkins from getting bullied.
That’s my philosophy, at least, and from a logic standpoint, most people won’t
be taking reckless exceptions on guys like Gaudreau if they know they’ll have
to answer to it with fist tossing. It’s not a Brian McGrattan level deterrent,
but it’s something.

As for the usage of the young guys, we’re not privy to what
happens at practice and behind closed doors. If we found out Player X had a few
lousy efforts at practice and then that player got scratched, everyone would
concur “this is a performance issue, makes sense” and move on. But we don’t any
of that, so of course Twitter explodes at the idea of Favourite Youngster X
getting scratched! Johnny Hockey, Josh Jooris and others have responded in a
big way from taking a seat. The results are there, people.

The Tyler Wotherspoon situation confuses me too, though.

Another point on how he handles his young players: many a
time last season we complained about how Sean Monahan was/wasn’t being used.
He’s turned into a pretty darn dominant player at age 20, so circling back to
results, that’s the only argument needed. 

Sven Baertschi not responding to the treatment like everyone
else makes him the outlier, not the rule.

Conclusion 

In summary, what Bob Hartley’s Calgary Flames have done this
season is tied quite directly with the systems and culture Hartley has
implemented in the organization.

He’s taken a fairly unremarkable group of players and
crafted a system for them to succeed in. Call it luck, call it magic, what Bob
Hartley has done with the 2014-15 Calgary Flames is deserving of the Jack Adams
finalist recognition.

And if he were to win it… he’d, you know, be like, umm, uh, like
deserving of it.

  • MattyFranchise

    Holy crap! This is just a no win situation right here at FlamesNation. Post about stats saying the team is terrible and the comments are all about how the stats don’t tell the whole story.

    And then a guy posts an article about something other than stats that explains why the team is where they are and he gets accused of ‘blatant homerism.’

    You just can’t win with these people!

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Bon Hartley is a great coach with all the negatives that the media and experts and yes fans tried to lay on this team the still come out with positive bob and win hockey games. So all you negative nay Sayers go hang out with lambert and call your self oiler fans

  • Complaining, pointing out every negative aspect of Hartley’s coaching career in the middle of a playoff drive, whatever you’re doing it’s annoying.

    Treliving is still treating it like a rebuild and Hartley will probably win coach of the year. Have a beer and enjoy the ride.

  • Good article – for the most part.

    However I disagree on two things

    1) Bollig as a deterrent

    It hasn’t happened. At all. The fact is that he plays on a different line from Gaudreau and that’s what it boils down to because when a big bad hitter sees Gaudreau, Hudler, and Russell out there together, the last thing on that player’s mind is “oh no, what if twenty minutes from now Brandon Bollig stages a fight with me, assuming I’m actually on the ice”.

    Fact is the Flames have had a lot of guys actually back up their teammates over the last bunch of years – Backlund, Ferland, Colborne, Giordano are all willing to drop the gloves in the right context and the difference is that when they do it, the team responds. When Giordano got into it with Regehr in the Kings game, THAT was a deterrent. When Brandon Bollig says “hey bud, ya wanna go” to the other team’s 4th liner, that doesn’t have any effect on teams like the Kings and Rangers playing Interference Hockey.

    2) Lineups.

    So many times this season the Flames have had to make comebacks because of bad D-combinations earlier in the game. How much of the season did it take Hartley to realize SMid/Engelland wasn’t working? All season, and only a concussion to poor Ladislav managed to salvage that. And now Hartley insists on starting Engelland with Brodie tonight when we saw what happens when that happens – the team getting down 4-0 due to a 30% corsi for TJ friggin Brodie!

    Do those things mean Hartley is not a great coach? NO. But they’re frustrating as hell because they force the team to make miracle comebacks in the first place. Hartley figures it all out in the same game by mating Diaz with Brodie and looks like a genius, and then the next game decides “nahhh, that was a one-off.”

    Sven also wasn’t the only outlier. David Wolf, Emile Poirier, Wotherspoon… all these guys are just plain better than the guys they were sat down for.

    The onus is on Treliving to get rid of Engelland, Bollig, and Raymond before Hartley costs us more great asset.

    Should Hartley get the Jack Adams? Sure. But let’s not defend all his moves.

  • “Well, first off, who are we to judge his player usage? Yeah, Brandon Bollig is hot garbage but when you play the Boston Bruins, who individually share the average weight of a small airplane, you need some beef in your lineup to either deter, or defend your munchkins from getting bullied. That’s my philosophy, at least, and from a logic standpoint, most people won’t be taking reckless exceptions on guys like Gaudreau if they know they’ll have to answer to it with fist tossing. It’s not a Brian McGrattan level deterrent, but it’s something.”

    From a logic stabndpoint, a logic that has been refuted so many times now.

    Oh and the Flames play the Bruins twice a year…..so we should totally have Bollig playing games because of that…..

  • “Well, first off, who are we to judge his player usage? Yeah, Brandon Bollig is hot garbage but when you play the Boston Bruins, who individually share the average weight of a small airplane, you need some beef in your lineup to either deter, or defend your munchkins from getting bullied. That’s my philosophy, at least, and from a logic standpoint, most people won’t be taking reckless exceptions on guys like Gaudreau if they know they’ll have to answer to it with fist tossing. It’s not a Brian McGrattan level deterrent, but it’s something.”

    Keep an enforcer on your roster for one or two instances a year……….

    • Christian Roatis

      I get it, you disagree with me, and your logic/opinion is far superior to mine.

      It’s my opinion and I don’t really care if you disagree with it because it’s just that – an opinion. You’re welcome to yours and I respect that. Please respect mine.

      • No one is suggesting you should be prohibited from posting because of your opinion. What people (myself included) are suggesting is that your opinion is, at least in part, mistaken, and that you should consider changing it for a number of (pretty good IMO) reasons. Retreating to “it’s just an opinion!” when you’re challenged is really childish.