It’s official: the Calgary Flames are in a post-Bob Hartley era as they begin the important quest of finding the coach who can take them above and beyond his limitations. Personal opinions aside, from a purely objective perspective this is by far the most important step for this team next to finding suitable goaltending.
Coincidentally, it aligns just perfectly with Bruce Boudreau’s termination in Anaheim. However, given the fact that Boudreau in his own right is a hot commodity: should the Flames miss the opportunity on signing arguably the best candidate for the job, then who else is available?
Shockingly, there are a few candidates worthy of an opportunity to lead this team moving forward.
1. Bruce Boudreau
We’ve covered this at length already and it’s an obvious option because of what Boudreau can do for teams. Put aside the asinine narratives of not winning in the playoffs and be objective about this: who is the most qualified and capable out of all available candidates? Boudreau.
Across the league and blogosphere, there has been many, many, many pieces on why Boudreau is a suitable option for teams looking to fill vacancies. Everyone sees the appeal and acknowledges most teams in need of a new coach should benefit from what Boudreau can bring.
He’s a progressive coach who can be the positive impact that the Calgary Flames so desperately need.
But with that comes the other teams also in need of a coach to take their teams to the next level. Which is the main concern of seeing this opportunity come to fruition. And it’s the most obvious question you have to ask:
Would Bruce Boudreau want to come to Calgary?
The goal in this search should be finding the right coach who can take the existing strengths of this roster and maximize their outputs. Boudreau has had a history of doing that and it’s a trait that this team needs to fully take the next step.
2. Davis Payne
Davis Payne is one of the more interesting options out there, if the the Kings let teams speak to him. Payne’s only NHL level head coach role came back in 2009-10 with the St. Louis Blues where he was the head coach until his termination in 2011-12. In that time, the Blues never saw the post-season.
The allure in Payne, like John Stevens below, comes from seeing what he can do again as a head coach. He’s had several seasons of success working in Los Angeles so it’s easy to perceive the optimism in capturing some of his experience in an intangibles way.
There had been discussion of Payne heading to Philadelphia potentially when Flyers GM Ron Hextall fired Craig Berube. A second opportunity as a head coach, with an upstart team full of the right pieces could be a good fit if the Flames explored this option.
Payne has been quoted with wanting his teams to be “aggressive, to relentlessly go after the puck. That’s what we are trying to re-establish here [with the Kings].” Which oddly enough has worked out well for the Kings.
3. John Stevens
Similar to Payne, John Stevens is another coach in the Kings’ stable of talent behind the bench. Stevens had seen success at the pro-level with the Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL), winning the Calder Cup in 2004-05. That success vaulted him into the NHL with the Flyers, seeing the post-seeason twice before being terminated in 2009-10.
Since joining the Kings, Stevens has been a vital part to the coaching staff as they’ve attempted to pursue a modern day dynasty. The Kings went as far as denying permission for Stevens to speak with teams back in 2014 as there was an assumption that Stevens could be the future after Sutter’s time is done in Los Angeles.
The appeal, like with Payne, comes from the optimism that Stevens is ready to take another chance at being a head coach in the NHL. Given the Kings emphasis on puck possession hockey, again it makes Stevens a potential candidate.
4. Guy Boucher
The fabled Guy Boucher who may resemble a Bond villain – the man who weaponized the annoying 1-3-1 which brought a game to a stand still – is looking to return to the NHL. His prior success saw him coach the Drummondville Voltigeurs to a QMJHL championship, which in turn earned him an AHL coaching job with Hamilton.
Boucher’s brief success at the NHL level with the Tampa Bay Lightning lasted just under two and a half seasons. In that time, he took the Lightning to the third round in 2010-11 and then failed to reproduce any success. His tenure in the Swiss League saw very limited success, taking Bern to the second round of the playoffs, and being fired 22 games into this season.
The interest in Boucher has peaked more and more in the last few years with word breaking he was close to landing a job with the Maple Leafs. Boucher’s name has also been floated around Ottawa and Montreal at various times, too. One thing that could see more attention on Boucher is the link to Hockey Canada, coaching at the U-18 level, U-20 level, and his head coaching role at the Spengler Cup.
5. Kevin Dineen
The curious case of Kevin Dineen is an interesting one. Six seasons with the Portland Pirates in the AHL saw a relatively consistent Portland team more often than not in the playoffs. In 2011-12, Dineen was brought in – in Florida, with one of the least impressive Panthers rosters in recent memory.
In his first season behind the bench the team managed to make it to the post-season for the first time since 1999-00, unfortunately falling in the first round to the New Jersey Devils. After that, a lockout shortened season, and a termination 16 games into the 2013-14 season saw the end of Dineen in a head coach role in the NHL.
Since then Dineen has worked with Team Canada’s Women’s team, coaching them to gold in Sochi in 2014. The success with Team Canada helped land him an assistant coaching role with the Blackhawks. Similarly, the Hockey Canada connection is something to take note of here with Brad Treliving’s current role as co-general manager for Team Canada at the World Championships.
Dineen’s name has floated around a bit, though Joel Quenneville expects his entire coaching staff to return for 2016-17.
Additional Options in the AHL
Even beyond these five options, there are still some names worth considering and exploring.
Sheldon Keefe is going to be snatched up some day. There is no denying that his work with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds has drawn eyes from across the sport to what Keefe can accomplish. It’s also what vaulted him into a position with the Toronto Marlies this season where the juggernaut is among the best AHL teams ever assembled.
The only thing going against Keefe is the amount of pro-coaching experience under his belt. There may be an opportunity to allow him to grow a bit more in the AHL, but judging from the reputation he’s garnered as a coach and a progressive thinker it’s likely a team gives him an opportunity sooner than later.
Travis Green, the current coach of the Utica Comets in the AHL, has been a coach on the radar for some time. His work with Vancouver’s AHL affiliate has drawn quite a bit of attention at the NHL level, apparently. Chris Higgins has given him praise, citing Green is “very, very smart. He’s hard on players, he’s hard on the bench, but in the video room he’s really good. He teaches well.“
Our pals at the Canucks Army recently touched on the potential of Green replacing current Canucks coach Willie Desjardins.
At the WHL level, Green took over in 2012-13 mid-season to lead the Winterhawks to the Memorial Cup where they fell against Halifax. Since becoming Utica’s head coach, he’s achieved a record of 120-78-33 (.592) in 228 games. In his second full season with the Comets, he helped coach Utica to the AHL finals.
Finally, another name worth floating out there, because of his recent departure from the Ottawa Senators organization, is Luke Richardson. The former Binghamton Senators coach has been the subject of a lot of speculation in recent years as many expected him to take over in Ottawa at some point.
With Dave Cameron’s termination in recent weeks, Pierre Dorion’s indication that Richardson wasn’t being considered for the vacancy, as well as a need to explore new challenges, Richardson may be ready to take the next step professionally and be a coach at the NHL level.
Richardson achieved a 153-120-31 (.555) record over his tenure in Binghamton.
What to Make of All of This
There are options. It’s plain and simple. The reality is even if the Flames fail to hire Bruce Boudreau, there is still an assortment of options available. Ryan Huska may need more time in Stockton which doesn’t hurt anything. It gives him an opportunity to learn and grow at the pro level.
Martin Gelinas on the other hand is still undetermined for many. Given his fate being spared it’s possible that he isn’t of the same ilk as Hartley; Gelinas could very well be someone who is progressive and emphasizes the attributes Hartley and Burke discussed at length during the press conference and radio hits.
But at the end of the day, if Treliving practices what he preaches then this team is far better off than fans could expect, providing they make a good hiring. It’s a post-Bob Hartley era, the air smells good, and things look beautiful.
For once in a long time, the future of this team seems to be warm with optimism. And none of it is misguided.