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:

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • Deef

    So our options ended with a coach who has never worked with a winning franchise, and a career assistant coach that has worked with clubs riddled with high powered superstars. Hmmmm… Not seeing the upside with either.

  • piscera.infada

    I like Reirden in theory. He has some pretty good experience with both Pittsburgh and Washington.

    I’m not personally as down on Gulutzan as others seemingly are–although I understand if a lot of that is Canuck’s stink. I don’t think his NHL time was horrendous (outside of a top-line of Benn-Ribeiro-Ericksson, he didn’t have a ton to work with in year one, and year two was a pretty young team), and his AHL time as a head coach is somewhat inspiring.

    Honestly, I think either could be successful. That said, it’s tough to evaluate an assistant coach’s credentials or ability to be a successful NHL head coach based purely on anecdotal evidence.

  • Denscafon

    I actually suggested Todd Reirden in march prior to hartley being fired that he would be a great candidate for a new head coach haha…

    http://flamesnation.ca/2016/3/1/shot-down-in-flamesnation-podcast (comment #27 :p)

    Reirden is from a winning pedigree (well at least president’s trophy winning…) and his pp/pk coaching is one of the best in the league. I honestly don’t know how BT and BB can consider Gulutzan as the better candidate other than him telling BB “Bollig will be in the line up every game”……sigh

    I hope something happens and my suggestion from march comes to fruition

  • Parallex

    Based off of those descriptions of the two I’d want Reirden. Although I’d bet on Gulutzan if I were a betting man. Seems strange to hear his name so late in the process… Gulutzan’s been a name we’ve heard throughout the process, and this is the first time Reirden’s name has come up.

    Seems strange that Travis Green’s name was everywhere for every vacancy this summer but now he’s no where to be found.

    • piscera.infada

      It’s possible Green is just waiting for the job in Vancouver to open up? I’ve heard a couple of times that he’s very loyal to the Canucks’ organization.

  • Derzie

    If Randy Carlyle truly was on the short list, it doesn’t matter who they pick as coach. It shows a clear lack of judgement and outright hypocrisy (i.e. Carlyle has even worse possession stats than Hartley and is anything but a players coach.) I wonder if Treliving waited too long and got scooped (Yeo perhaps). None of the candidates look good on paper at this point so who they hire is irrelevant until the puck drops in October. Then we’ll see if we are heading in the right direction.