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:

  • Mr.Luv2Poop

    Just a random thought: Blues sign ken hitchcock to a one year deal, hire mike yeo, and openly announce that he will take over head coaching duties when hitchcock’s deal is done.

    Maybe flames are hiring a temp coach and want to sign hitchcock. These coach candidates are kind of random, wondering if they have their own secret agenda.

    Update: Since learned he plans to retire. RIP to this idea.

    • piscera.infada

      These coach candidates are kind of random, wondering if they have their own secret agenda.

      I’m confused by this line of thinking. It is fairly well documented since the inception of this coaching search that the Flames were looking at candidates that were up and comers (so to speak)–Carlyle notwithstanding (still scratching my head there).

      People can’t necessarily extol the virtues of a fresh face, and then complain that the fresh face isn’t well known.

      • MontanaMan

        I wouldn’t read too much into the Carlyle interest and nobody has said he was in the top 3 (in fact, I don’t believe that to be true). I’m still not convinced it’s down to two candidates as I believe Travis Green is still in the running. Time will tell, but it appears that the Flames will announce this week.

  • 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.

    • Jake the Snail

      They want to get rid of him? 🙂

      Please, not Gulutzan – see under: “two seasons later, he was the surprise choice to coach the NHL club (Dallas). After two so-so seasons as bench boss, the two sides parted ways.”

      So what is the delay in naming the head coach? Was Tre waiting for the Cup Final to finish so he could get an assistant coach from either Pitt or Jose? see “Reirdon ran the blueline in Pittsburgh”

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Board approval is a rubber stamp.

          Every terrible GM and coach hiring here got the rubber stamp from the board.

          Tre has pissed around too long on this coaching decision, so he is left with scraps. Unbelievable that he dithered for a month after the season ended before he canned Harts. That was huge rookie mistake. Gulutzan has had a lot of free time since April, so if he is the best dude now for the job, why wasn’t he in April or May?

        • The Fall

          I listen most mornings. They are talking head DJs.
          It’s always pure speculation.

          2 weeks ago: “it is guaranteed that Carlyle ends up in Calagary… It’s just the natural fit… I’d expect an announcement any day”

          4 weeks ago: “The Canucks window for a Championship is closing… The Sedans are going to be champions…”

          • Parallex

            I’ll take your word on it… I’m just sayin’ that it’s not like it’s breaking news out of Muncie Indiana. It’s from a market where it’s at least plausible that they know something. Or maybe they don’t know anything.

            I’d still put better odds on Gulutzan. Simply because it seems most plausible. Multiple mentions of his name from multiple people, unconfirmed rumors of 2nd interviews and meetings with senior management (above Treliving/Burke). All signs point to Gulutzan.

  • 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.

  • RKD

    Should be Reirden, Gulutzan missed the playoffs twice with Dallas and they finished 4th and 5th place. In Dallas, their PK under Gulutzan was league average both years and their PP was under league average. GA was 13th in league and GF 21 the year after he had opposite results GA was 23rd and the GF 12th. His results are inconsistent. Unless Gulutzan does a 180 and can turn around both our pp and pk, I will be skeptical. I hope Gulutzan can do things differently his second time around in the NHL if it is him. I’ve never heard Gulutzan’s name mentioned as a candidate in any prior head coaching vacancies just that he became Vancouver’s assistant coach in 2013. Two seasons ago the Canucks PP and PK were both above league average but last season the PK was slightly below league average but the PP was down.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Backburner

    Treliving did say that the new Coach would be with the team for long term…

    Gulutzan or Reirden seem more like coaches you’d bring in on a temporary trial run.. not really to build your team around.

    • TheoForever

      Those two sound like the guys you bring in, to hunt for the #1 pick. Not to worry, 2 more years of bottom 6 finishes and BT will hire Krueger, going all Oiler.

    • BurningSensation

      On the contrary, 44 year old up-and-comers are exactly the profile you want when trying to establish a winning program.

      Edmonton had the right idea in bringing in a younger coach in Eakins, it was the players that couldn’t/didn’t pull any rope.

    • piscera.infada

      I’m not sure I see it that way. You want a coach to “grow with the team”, most of your assessment criteria is probably going to be based more on philosophical issues, than simple cursory concerns such as ‘who won how much, where’. I mean, obviously past success is important, but judging from everything management has said regarding the coaching search, it’s not so much name value or how good it looks right now, it’s about who will pay dividends when the team is ready to compete.

      That’s why I have a hard time being overly critical of the decision whenever it’s made. Yes, it’s a big decision. It’s going to have to be assessed over the coming years though.

          • everton fc

            You didn’t. I may have included your quote in error – can’t recall. I like Rierden over Gulutzan. And I think we need to consider coaching choices made in Tampa, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, others…. Meaning not guys like Caryle, Hitchcock…

            We need a fresh approach….

          • piscera.infada

            I completely agree. I like Reriden more as well, but that’s only because of cursory information (like the teams they’ve coached, etc.). I honestly don’t mind Gulutzan though.

            I don’t think Treliving is going to give us a bad coaching hire. He seems to know exactly what he’s looking for, and he’s going through many candidates to find it. That’s a lot more comforting to me, than firing Hartley and immediately hiring the flashiest name on the market.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.