On May 3, the Calgary Flames dropped the axe and relieved head coach Bob Hartley of his duties. General Manager Brad Treliving began his search for a replacement immediately.
Nearly six weeks later, the coaching search saga may be at its end.
Yesterday morning, Treliving joined the morning show on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and revealed, through a pretty intense line of questioning from Dean “Boomer” Molberg, that he had settled on his coach for a coach.
And then the names began trickling out.
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) June 13, 2016
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) June 13, 2016
Randy Carlyle ended up returning to Anaheim (for reasons which escape many in the hockey world), which seemingly leaves Gulutzan and Reirden vying for the head coaching job here in Cowtown.
Carlyle’s return to Anaheim leaves the Calgary Flames the line coach-less club. Gulutzan believed to be front runner. Nothing firm yet.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 14, 2016
So what do we know about our two finalists?
A 44-year-old product of Manitoba, Gulutzan played parts of five seasons in the Western Hockey League (with Moose Jaw, Brandon and Saskatoon) before playing a couple seasons with the University of Saskatchewan. After a couple of years in Europe, he dabbled around the International Hockey League and the West Coast Hockey League before ending his playing career as a player and assistant coach with the Fresno Falcons. (Fun fact: he played with Moose Jaw at the same time as Theoren Fleury.)
In his first non-player season, Gulutzan became the first head coach of the ECHL’s expansion team in Las Vegas. He coached there for six seasons, winning the ECHL’s coach of the year award in 2005-06, before getting recruited by the Dallas Stars to coach their AHL team. Two seasons later, he was the surprise choice to coach the NHL club. After two so-so seasons as bench boss, the two sides parted ways.
He’s been an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks for the past three seasons. As a head coach in Dallas, he had a reputation as offensively-slanted, but his inexperience in the NHL did show through at times and the team’s defensive game wasn’t amazing. The Stars missed the playoffs in both seasons where he was coach.
Also 44 years old, but from Illinois, Reirden came up with Bowling Green University of the NCAA before delving into minor-pro. He was a journeyman’s journeyman before he made his NHL debut, playing with the Raleigh Ice Cats (ECHL), Tallahassee Tiger Sharks (ECHL), Albany River Rats (AHL), Jacksonville Lizard Kings (ECHL), Chicago Wolves (IHL), San Antonio Dragons (IHL), Fort Wayne Komets (IHL) and Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL).
Reirden played parts of five seasons in the NHL with Edmonton, St. Louis, Atlanta and Phoenix before playing a bit in Europe (Germany, Austria and Denmark) and then retiring. All-told, the blueliner played 183 NHL games after being a 12th round pick in 1990.
After retiring, Reirden was an assistant coach at his alma mater for a season before joining the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as an assistant. Before his first season was done with the Baby Penguins, he was promoted to head coach after Dan Bylsma got brought up to Pittsburgh. After a full season as head coach in Wilkes-Barre, he was brought up to the NHL club and served as an assistant for four seasons. After the Penguins axed their whole coaching staff, he was immediately hired to be an assistant in Washington under Barry Trotz.
Reirden ran the blueline for Pittsburgh and now does so in Washington, along with running the Capitals’ power-play.
Reirden’s players credit him for his Xs and Os smarts, communication
skills and attention to detail. Letang said he improved a lot under
Reirden, Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz called him an “intellect on the
power play” and Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik praised him for not
dwelling on mistakes because playing the position gave him an
understanding of how difficult it is.
SUM IT UP
Both Gulutzan and Reirden are both 44. Both played pro hockey – Gulutzan was a center and Reirden was a defenseman – but only Reirden played any time in the NHL. Gulutzan is an offensive-minded coach that has two fairly unsuccessful years as an NHL head coach under his belt, while Reirden has spent six years molding young blueliners (and running potent power-plays) in Pittsburgh and Washington. Depending on the composition of their coaching staffs, either guy could be successful – though given Calgary’s young, talented defense corps, Reirden may be the better fit.
If neither guy is available, the Flames might just settle for three small children, stacked on top of each other, underneath a trenchcoat:
— Tyler Morency (@fergis) June 13, 2016