Calgary’s next head coach will come from a “winning program”

Calgary Flames General Manager Brad Treliving is still in Soviet Russia for the 2016 World Hockey Championship, but that’s not stopping him from his search for a new head coach.

Postmedia’s Michael Traikos talked to Treliving in Russia, and their chat resulted in a bit of an insight into what he’s looking for in a new coach:

Treliving said he is looking for someone with experience, but that
the quality of experience matters more than the actual years of service.
He is “not just looking for a name” or “someone who’s coached for 20
years” or even a former NHL head coach. But he does want someone,
whether it is an assistant coach, minor-league coach, or someone from
major junior or college, who had a role in building something of

“To me it’s not as much about where you’ve coached,
but what you’ve built and what your piece was in growing it,” said
Treliving. “It’s being involved in winning programs.”

Based on those criteria, here are five contenders with winning in their backgrounds that could merit a look from Flames management in their search.


Currently the head coach of the Barrie Colts, where Flames prospects Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson ply their trade, Hawerchuk has earned some accolades for molding the Colts into a powerhouse in the OHL. He was also a pretty fair player in his own right, racking up 500+ goals and 1400+ points and earning the title as perhaps the best player to never win a Stanley Cup.

He’s been at the helm of the Colts for several years, so he might be itching for a move. The Colts have a good power-play, have developed a steady stream of good OHLers and Hawerchuk’s resume gives him instant credibility within the Flames locker room.

Flames connections? Flames drafted Mangiapane and Andersson from his club, while Hawerchuk coached for Brad Pascall at a past U18 tournament.


Currently the head coach of the London Knights, Hunter has been one of the most impressive OHL coaches in memory. Aside from a brief trip to Washington to replace Bruce Boudreau on an interim basis, Hunter’s been a fixture in London since 2001-02 and has built them into a terrifyingly good hockey club.

Hunter’s a powerhouse coach and may be looking for a challenge, but bear in mind that he basically quit his job as Washington’s coach to go back home – so homesickness or just not wanting to leave a cushy OHL gig may be a factor here.

Flames connections? Coached Sam Bennett and Mason McDonald at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Tournament (where he worked under Brad Pascall).


Currently the head coach of the Toronto Marlies, who are super amazing and you can follow at our sister site LeafsNation, Keefe has a long resume. He spent three seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, spent a ton of time before that coaching in Ontario, and has some Hockey Canada connections through experiences with the World Junior-A Challenge and the World Under-17 Challenge.

He just got to Toronto and might not want to move right away, but with Mike Babcock cemented in the Center of the Universe for awhile, Keefe will likely need to leave the Leafs organization to get an NHL job.

Flames connections? None directly, but he likely has crossed paths with members of the scouting and management team during his tenure in Ontario’s various levels.


Another experienced bench boss, Laxdal just finished off his second season behind the bench of the Texas Stars of the AHL. But prior to that, Laxdal made his coaching name driving the Edmonton Oil Kings to one of the best four season stretches the WHL has seen in recent memory (with three trips to the WHL final series in four seasons, along with a Memorial Cup win). He’s also coached in the ECHL and old CHL, and he had a lengthy pro career that emphasized the journey in the word journeyman.

Like Keefe, Laxdal did just arrive in Texas. But like Keefe, he may be hoping a strong AHL performance will get him some NHL attention.

Flames connections? Coached Brett Pollock in Edmonton, likely crossed paths with Brad Treliving during his time in the CHL.


Currently the head coach of the Providence College Friars, Leaman has built up a really good college resume. He was an assistant at Harvard for four seasons, left to be head coach at Union for nine seasons and just finished off his fourth campaign with Providence College. He’s won an NCAA championship and built up Union and Providence into really strong college programs, and he’s been behind the bench for USA Hockey at U18 and World Junior tournaments.

Leaman’s been a really good college coach for almost two decades; he may be looking for the next challenge.

Flames connections? Leaman coached Josh Jooris at Union and Jon Gillies and Mark Jankowski at Providence. Given his USA Hockey connections, Brian Burke is also likely fairly familiar with him.

  • freethe flames

    I don’t know enough about any of these fellows other than their records and reputations but they all seem like good candidates for interviews. Maybe AC? or if WW gets his wish a replacement for Huska in California. Like Burnward said I believe that BT will put in the time and make a good selection. Hopefully the coach will be in place prior to the draft and free agency.

  • Juan Valdez

    Nate Leaman took teams with an average level of talent and made them championship calibre. He gets the best out of his players by holding them accountable.

    Dale Hawerchuk is a great coach for offensive systems and could improve our powerplay.

    Both are great options, but if I had to pick one I would go with Hawerchuk because our powerplay was attrocious; especially our 5 on 3 play. Not scoring on 5 on 3 opportunities is a big momentum killer.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    It’s interesting to peice information like this with what we’ve already heard so far, regarding coaching. Trelliving let go Hartley, because he didn’t like his on ice strategy and lack of possession play. Last season I remember his quote “waiting for the bloom to come off the rose”, which to me sounded like he was expecting he Flames to regress to a normal team shooting percentage. Now he seems to be intimating that a younger or less experienced coach will be next in line. I think we’re seeing that Trelliving puts high stock in advanced stats and is looking for a coach to execute with fancy stats as a part of his playbook. I’m looking forward to seeing if this is, in fact the direction the Flames are going now.

  • knappsacked

    I like leamen and hawerchuk, but i lean more towards hawerchuk for the following two reasons:

    1. Dale teams have had succesful powerplay and offensive totals and given the offensive squad the flames have, hell fit in like a worn in glove.

    2. Leamen reportedly runs a very defensive system, and while that is good for us to consider, it may mean less ice time for the gaudreaus and hamiltons and increased ice time for the stajans and engellends. Noe i cant guarentee that happens, but its something to be weary of. However if his player deployment is as we all think it should be then im good with him.

  • Longshot1977

    I love the idea of Hawerchuk. His history as a PP specialist on and off the ice would be a welcome addition, and should help maximize the production of Johnny,Sean, and Sam.

    Anyone know if he still harbors grudge over that Jamie Macoun crosscheck in ’85?

    • MattyFranchise

      Due diligence, most likely. Same with the Carlyle interview. No stone unturned.

      Although it must be annoying knowing that you’re interviewing for a job that you’re never going to get.

      • Stan

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the veteran HC’s in an assistant role. Anaheim did this with Paul Mclean and Ottawa is now doing it with Crawford. Seems like a good strategy to me, especially if hiring a first time NHL coach.

        • MattyFranchise

          I could get behind that. I’m hoping that the Flames realize sooner rather than later that the old boys club isn’t going to work for the new NHL.

          There needs to be some new blood coming into the NHL coaching pool.

  • febreze

    Hunter left Washington because at the time it was a culture of inmates running the asylum and personalities being bigger than the team. He openly commented on it in surprise/disgust as it wouldn’t have been possible on the teams he played on in his day. He could be ready to return and a raw Flames team that isn’t too far gone in any direction could be attractive.

    • Joe Flames

      If I remember correctly, Hunter had the team play an ultra-defensive style when he coached Washington. Didn’t go over well with Ovechkin, Green, Backstrom, Semin etc.
      Not sure that is what we want here.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    I hear the jack Adams winner from last year is available maybe he can instill a hard working come from behind in the third period attitude lol

  • Stan

    I would like to see a young, up and comer placed in the head coaching role with an experienced head coach as assistant. I think a combination of Hawerchuk and Yeo could be great. Let Hawerchuk direct things on the PP and offensive side of things, and let Yeo clean up our play in our own end and on the PK.

    Just a suggestion, but I think something like that might work!

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    I’m from Winnipeg where Hawerchuk is still a hero to many and seems like winning record defines his coaching career so let’s do it, do it now! Yeo as assistant to handle Defense may work. Still the players matter more, arguably, so wonder if a veteran RW and strong Goalie are on their way here…need to dump 1-2 veterans who are costly relative to their value.

  • Mullen7

    It seems like success at the junior level does not immediately transfer to the NHL when it comes to coaching. Perhaps I’m wrong but I would love to hear if others could give some examples of coaches who had success going straight from junior

  • Burnward

    Here’s a name that popped into my head tonight, Mike Kitchen.

    Been in Chicago forever.

    Not sure if that’s because he’s already been discussed though. 😉

  • redwhiteblack

    Nate Leaman the next Bob Johnson? Bob came from NCAA after honing his skills for years there with success.

    I know he puts a lot of effort into defensive systems but we need to keep the puck out of our net.

  • Joe Flames

    “He was also a pretty fair player in his own right, racking up 500+ goals and 1400+ points and earning the title as perhaps the best player to never win a Stanley Cup.”

    Let’s hope Iggy doesn’t take this title from Hawerchuk!