And there we have it: after 294 games (plus 11 playoff games) and a .498 winning percentage, the Bob Hartley era has come to an end in Calgary.
In his post-firing presser, Brad Treliving was sure to emphasize a number of things about his former head coach. For one thing, he enjoyed him; for another, he was a guy who was all-in, and there’s no doubt he cared deeply about this team and bringing success to Calgary. It’s not exactly fun firing people, but sometimes, people simply have to be let go.
One of the first things Treliving said? “Bob has taken this team as far as I feel he can take it.”
It’s probably the right assessment.
Martin Gelinas, Jordan Siaglet, and Jamie Pringle are still with the Flames. Bob Hartley and Jacques Cloutier are gone.
“The decision I reached was not based solely on this season,” Treliving said. Nothing particularly changed between the miraculous 2014-15 playoff run and the 2015-16 fizzle out, either: Treliving had roughly 300 games with which to evaluate Hartley, and he used everything at his disposal reach his decision.
In his initial post-season presser, Treliving stated they were taking the time to evaluate all facets of the organization. It may have started with himself, but it definitely included coaching as well: and three weeks later, Treliving evaluated the coaching to not be up to par.
Both on-ice performance and philosophical differences played a role in this decision. Treliving emphasized he wanted his team to play a style of game more focused on puck possession. Learning how to defend is crucial, as are special teams. “Our special teams, for a good portion of the year, were 30th in the league,” Treliving noted.
However, it’s not as if the Flames’ failure is solely on Hartley. “This is not letting players off the hook. Quite the contrary. This is on a lot of other people that need to take responsibility as well. Myself included, the players included,” Treliving said. Of particular note, he acknowledged the Flames had poor goaltending this past season, and took the blame for that. He didn’t delve into specifics – whether it was because of inadequate personnel, the decision to keep up three goaltenders, or both – but it’s clear Treliving is aware he is at fault as well.
But that doesn’t excuse Hartley’s performance, and the fact that the Flames needed to find a new style of play.
One thing Treliving said that stood out to me was: “You need to look at your group, what your assets are, and those types of things.” The Flames made two very notable upgrades to their roster last off-season by adding Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik: two very good players who fit the style of hockey Treliving wants to see out of his team, and who were vastly under-utilized throughout the entire 2015-16 season.
Who’s the next coach?
Quite simply: do not expect an announcement today, and perhaps not even in the near future.
“Today’s decision wasn’t based on anybody in the on-deck circle,” Treliving said. “Today’s about Bob.”
So as much as the entire Internet – and some of us here, even – are ready to hand the Flames’ head coaching job over to the recently fired Bruce Boudreau, that’s not a reality Treliving and the Flames have entered quite yet. A fair number of questions Treliving was handled seemed to try to lead him in this direction, but Treliving was steadfast in saying Hartley was let go now not because of who’s now available, but because it was simply time.
(Of course, perhaps he was protesting too much? Start your conspiracy theories regardless, they’re always a good time.)
Treliving is a guy who is clearly extremely thorough and patient in his work, so it should come as no surprise that, when asked about hiring a new coach, all he really said was, “We’re gonna start the process today. We’ll be thorough and extensive.”
Calgary should no doubt be an attractive destination for future coaches. “There’s a bright future for this team,” Treliving said, and with players like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, and another high draft pick incoming, there absolutely is one.
Hopefully the new coach will be able to take that next step with them.