Flames coaching search seemingly down to Glen Gulutzan and Todd Reirden

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.

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.

So what do we know about our two finalists?

GLEN GULUTZAN

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.

TODD REIRDEN

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:

  • Stan

    Holy. Surprised at the amount of hate that Gulutzan is getting when literally nobody here really knows barely anything about him as a candidate.

    Seriously, I would much rather BT hire the guy he thinks is the best fit rather then a candidate widely panned as a “good choice”. A prime example would be the GM search. I seem to recall that there were numerous articles on FN hoping and praying that the next GM would be Benning, which in hindsight, would have obviously been a terrible choice.

    When it comes to management/coaching personnel decisions, I leave it up to the experts because I literally know jack shit about the options. If treliving hires Gulutzan, I will have faith that he made the right choice and that he was the best candidate and will forego passing judgement until I can see the coach in action.

    TLDR; I trust BT to make the best choice because 1) he is a diligent worker who does his homework and 2) in reality I know jack shit about the candidates.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Maybe Tre interviewed Carlyle a couple of times to fool the maroons in Anaheim that he was desirable, and to make them think they had to hire him quick before the Flames did.

    We are totally going to win ALL the games in Anaheim next year! Especially with co-coaches Gulutzan and Reirden.

  • Flamethrower

    Nobody has said Ward and Green are out of the picture.
    Rumors are often the furthest from the truth… we will know when the fat lady sings.
    In my humble opinion these are two are very good candidates. Green defensive and Ward offensive, both are players coachs and have winning records in their own rites.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    After an exhaustive search where no stone was unturned and every garbage can lid was lifted, it apparently comes down to Gulutzan or Reirdan. Knock me over with a feather.

    I am not prepared to dump on either yet, but one wonders with all the other clubs having coaches signed, were the Flames left with scraps? Neither Gulutzan nor Reirdan strike me as “last man standing” candidates. Is it possible the Flames are going the el cheapo way with regard to a head coach?

    The possibility also exists that Gulutzan and Reirdan are just smoke bombs and the real selection will be someone not even speculated about.

    Let’s say the new coach gets off to the same start as Hartley did in 2015-16. Of course, we will all say that the new guy can’t be judged until at least 20 games are played; however, as we all bore sad witness to last season, stinking it up for the first month and a half really put the Flames in a tough position that helped doom their playoff hopes. Assuming the Flames have a healthy lineup but suck for the first six weeks of the season, do you keep the new guy or jack him? What will the effect of another dismal season be on the org and its fans? Be competitive and lose, fair enough because you aren’t good enough, but suck like they did last October, and one has to wonder if the Flames have become the Oilers.

  • smatic10

    Just to offer some comfort for those who are skeptical.

    Remember when we had a GM vacancy and everyone was screaming for Benning to be our GM? Treliving wasn’t the most attractive name on the market but he was chosen for a reason. And thus far, he’s performed better than I expected, certainly better than Benning.

    I trust Tree’s judgment. There must be a reason why Gulutzan and Reirden are the supposed two finalists. Mike Sullivan’s track record wasn’t all that impressive and yet Rutherford saw something in him, promoted him, and he coached his team to a championship.

    Have some faith.

      • Baalzamon

        You’re saying that with the benefit of hindsight (and a short memory). Back then, Benning was a highly-regarded member of Boston’s management, and widely seen as the most promising future GM.

        He, Paul Fenton, and Ron Hextal, for years, had been the three names that always came up when there was a GM vacancy. That summer they were joined by Michael Futa and a few others. Treliving was considered a dark horse.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Don’t recall Benning being a hot commodity here.

      As for Lil’ Jimmy, for the first half of the season NHL followers denounced him as a silly old fool whom the game had passed him by.

  • freethe flames

    There is still talk of them hiring an associate coach with more NHL creds, that the headcoach will have some say in it but that it will be BT hiring in the end. I wonder if that is what is holding things up. As someone said I would really like to know hat his philosophy is and how an AC could help him; maybe a PP specialist? I just want it to over.

  • deantheraven

    Not to throw shade on these two guys, but neither have an impressive resume. No “history of success” or ‘culture of winning’ experience, as Dr.Tre had been quoted to be looking for. Dunno how I feel about either but no doubt The Flames see something i don’t. Hope so.

  • L13

    The more I learn about Gulutzan, the less I fear him as an option. The coaching strategy presentation that’s making the rounds on the internet is encouraging; in it he talks about the importance of playing in the opponent’s zone and not getting hemmed in as opposed to relying on shot-blocking and last-second defensive heroics to prevent goals against. That offence is the best defence is a simple concept but one with which many old-school coaches, including Hartley, seem to struggle. It’s the foundation of sound possession play in the modern game.

    Gulutzan is also supposed to be a good development coach who isn’t afraid to trust young players and let them play their game even at the cost of making the occasional mistake. Again, that’s a pretty progressive attitude and one I really want to see in our next coach.

    All that said, talk is cheap. I’m sure–well, I should hope, at least–Randy Carlyle also said the right things in his Ducks interview(s), yet he’s the last coach I would have picked for the Flames if I were the GM. It remains to be seen whether Gulutzan practises what he preaches and whether he’s able to apply his coaching principles effectively.

    Neither Dallas’s performance under him nor Vancouver’s current state is an indictment on Gulutzan, but neither is an endorsement either. He seems to say the right things, but, again, talk is cheap.

    At this point I have no idea what to expect from him in terms of coaching performance, but at least I’m not filled with dread. I’m mostly curious.