Who is Glen Gulutzan?

The Calgary Flames are finally filling their coaching vacancy June 17, announcing that Glen Gulutzan will be their 16th head coach (and 18th since the team played in Atlanta).

Previously head coach for the Dallas Stars for two seasons and most recently an assistant coach with the hated Vancouver Canucks for the last three, Gulutzan’s still very young (only 44) and relatively early in his coaching career.

So who the heck is this guy?

Born in Manitoba but raised in Saskatchewan as a Montreal Canadiens fan, Gulutzan was coached by his father until he made the jump to the Western Hockey League as a teenager. He bounced around the WHL a bit, playing with Theoren Fleury in Moose Jaw before landing in Brandon with the Wheat Kings and Saskatoon, where he was captain. With his pro future looking bleak, Gulutzan went to school and completed an education degree at the University of Saskatchewan before going pro. (Food for thought: his father was also a teacher.)

Gulutzan bounced around Sweden for a couple of seasons before returning stateside, where he primarily played with the Fresno Falcons of the West Coast Hockey League – excluding a brief sojourn back to Europe and a few games in Utah and Las Vegas. After getting his feet wet as a player/coach – just like Reg Dunlop in Slap Shot! – he retired. The season after he hung up his skates, Gulutzan was made the head coach and general manager of the ECHL’s expansion team, the Las Vegas Wranglers.

Chatting with The Province, Gulutzan reminisced about the beginning of his Vegas experience:

A month after I finished playing I was talking to Darryl [Sutter] and also doing a
deal with Dallas. But what really helped was I’d had four years of real
experience. I’d done immigration, I’d gotten to know the agents, so I
knew the league. The biggest challenge of moving into the GM role was
the other stuff. When I walked into that beautiful arena in Las Vegas,
we had a dressing room, but no skate sharpener or tables and chairs, no
computer. There were some long hours in that start-up year and those
first couple of years. To be honest with you, I don’t know if I could
work that hard again. We had two kids at the time and I remember my wife
saying, “Can you just start playing again?” But that was my break —
everybody needs one — and that was mine, so I knew I had to work at it.

After six seasons in Las Vegas, he was recruited by the Dallas Stars to run their American Hockey League club outside of Austin, Texas. After two seasons with the minor league Stars – the first of which saw them go all the way to the Calder Cup Final – Gulutzan was unexpectedly tapped to replace Marc Crawford in Dallas without having spent a single game on an NHL bench.

By all accounts, Gulutzan did “fine” in Dallas. His inexperience and unfamiliarity with the NHL showed at times, though he did do a lot to help Jamie Benn put up strong numbers (and was said to be well-regarded by his players). The Stars were a sub-50% Corsi team when he was coaching (49.8% and 48.8%) and had decent special teams (13.5% and 16.9% power-play, 82.8% and 81.0% penalty killing). By the time he seemed to get a handle on the whole “coaching an NHL team” thing the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season was over, the Stars got out of bankruptcy, ownership was transferred to Tom Gaglardi and the new boss cleared the decks by firing everybody.

In his chat with The Province, he shared thoughts on his Dallas experience:

It was a great experience for me. What I didn’t have — and I think that
most coaches should have, especially if you haven’t played in the league
— is experience in the league. There were more things that I did well,
but some things that I would change. I think the only way you can get to
that point is to live it or be an assistant for three or four years in
the league. With more experience I probably would have done some things a
little different, but that’s what experience is. That’s not so much
about dealing with players, it’s more just being in the league.

Gulutzan wasn’t unemployed for long. He was quickly recruited to be an assistant for John Tortorella’s staff in Vancouver. He ran the power-play under Tortorella (15.2%) and was transitioned to run the penalty kill under his former Dallas assistant Willie Desjardins (85.7% and 81.1% over two seasons). He was said to be popular with the players, particularly the younger ones, and praised for his enthusiasm and attention to detail.

On their face, Gulutzan’s results are mixed. He won a championship in the WCHL (as player/coach), and made it to the championship series as a coach in the ECHL and the AHL. To be honest, the only league he hasn’t been to the big dance in yet as a head coach is the NHL. His teams’ possession and special teams stats are mixed, as were detailed above.

But likely the big selling point for Treliving in regards to Gulutzan? His focus on development and his background as a teacher. Bob Hartley worked at a windshield factory before becoming a full-time coach, and he brought a lunch-pail, “hard work!” mentality to the rink. But now that the Flames youngsters have had the importance of hard work impressed upon them, Gulutzan may be the coach with the right attitude and background to move them forward.

Gulutzan explained his development philosophy a bit to The Coaches’ Site:

I know that if I’m working hard as a coach to develop players, then its going to develop me as well. Winning is the goal, but it all works together and I dont think you can get caught up on just the winning side of it. Theres only one team thats going to win the Stanley Cup every year but the coaches that are committed to trying to get their players better, theyll have good teams and theyll get to where they want to go.

And via “Jore” at CalgaryPuck’s forum, here’s a really long, detailed video that probably sheds some light on Gulutzan’s philosophy even more:

It’s hard to imagine Treliving watching that video and not wanting to hire him.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Yup; that’s the video I was talking about…

    If Dallas Eakins and Huska had a love child it would be GG….

    Is the “tank” fully on for the next 2 years in Calgary?!

    WW

    • BurningSensation

      Man, you are just the worst.

      He’s going to be fine.

      And if he benches Bollig, he’ll be even better than fine, and certainly better than Hartley.

    • RKD

      No Eakins was set up to fail, he was the wrong guy for the Oilers. No way is Gulutzan even remotely a love child of Eakins and Huska. Have you heard of a guy named Jamie Benn who put up 63 points under Gulutzan? Why is Jamie Benn saying great things about him in regards to his own personal development.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Wally… please inform us all of your parameters for a successful first year coaching season for Gulutzan, given this roster and stage of the rebuild. What in your mind will constitute failure? What will be a success?

        • T&A4Flames

          Damn does your negativity get tiresome. It’s a black and white world for you….mostly black. Do you ever have anything positive to say or even have a wait and see approach to anything?

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          So… like a 93 point pace throughout the season? – because that’s what you’ll need to just get into the dance.

          If the Flames are on a pro-rated 93 points pace throughout the year… will you promise the rest of us here there will be no bitching and whining about GG like you do about Huska… it’s tiresome.

          Will you make that pact right here, right now?

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          So like a 93 points pace to get in?

          Can you promise the rest of us there will be no non-stop whining (like with Huska… it’s tiresome) if the Flames are on a pro-rated points pace of 93 throughout the year?

          Will you make that pact right here, right now?

  • The GREAT Walter White

    “He was said to be popular with the players, particularly the younger ones”

    are you referring to all the young players that the Canucks shipped out of town under GGs tutelage?!

    WW

  • cunning_linguist

    when BT was hired, there were quite a few who were bit disappointed, wanting a name like Benning instead….look how that worked out. I’m willing to give BT the benefit of the doubt here and assume he has made an intelligent and reasoned decision.

  • RKD

    By all accounts Glen is a great communicator, a progressive coach and a player’s coach. I think he was thrown to the wolves in Dallas and given a head coaching role too early when the Stars fired Crawford. I think Glen learned a lot his first go round but I think he needed more seasoning as an assistant coach. Under Gulutzan Loui Eriksson put up 71 points. Jamie Benn a fan of Gulutzan put up 63 points. Riberio a headcase was able to have a great season. I think Gulutzan can get more out of his players and he can improve our special teams.

  • Canadian Hockey Fan

    I think he’ll be a good hire. He got the most out of 2 mediocre Dallas Star teams and runs a great PK. Find a way to trade for Fleury, sign Monahan and Gaudreau, and find a top 6 RW. If that happens, I think the Flames finish back in the top 3 in the Pacific.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    He is a solid coach. I was a little surprised at first because I didn’t think he’d be a serious head coaching candidate yet considering our season this past year. But he is a great players coach as this mentioned. A nice guy who knows how to get stuff done. Hell you guys have a better coach than Vancouver now!

  • TheoForever

    Gulutzan’s record of winning championships:

    –DAL

    Missed Playoffs,Missed Playoffs

    —Las Vegas Wranglers
    Lost in Division Semifinals, Missed playoffs, Lost in Division Finals, Lost in Conference Semifinals, Lost in Kelly Cup Finals,Lost in Conference Finals,Lost in Calder Cup Finals,
    Lost in West Division Finals,

    –Texas Stars
    Lost in Calder Cup Finals, Lost in West Division Finals

      • KACaribou

        I find it a bit hilarious that if it suits people, they will abandon data like “championships at every level and a Jack Adams”, and disregard TheoForever’s info because it doesn’t fit into the theory that he is a great coach and hire.

        If data is the be all and end all of FN, then let it present itself and develop theories from the data; not vice versa.

  • Baalzamon

    Treliving on the draft:

    http://flames.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=886234&navid=DL|CGY|home

    “You try to make some assumptions and do your homework, but there is a lot of liar’s poker that goes into the days leading up to the draft,” Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving suggested. “Separating fact from fiction is an art form in itself.”

    “Don’t read too much into what you read or hear or see,” Treliving said. “It’s very competitive and everybody is trying to guard state secrets very closely. You try to zone into it as best you can. As much as you’re keeping your thoughts close to the vest, other teams are doing the same thing.”

    Flames might not be as opposed to Nylander as a lot of you guys think.

    • everton fc

      I think we pick Nylander, bring him to camp on the RW w/Gaudreau and Monahan, and see what happens – heck, Bennett almost scored 20 goals as a teenager last season. Monahan also did well, as a teen. And Nylander seems physically closer to “prime time” than many thought….

        • Kevin R

          Not that we have drafted him yet, but what makes you so sure he goes back to Sweden? I see this as very similar to Kyllington. Why wouldn’t he go back to the CHL/ If he impresses in camp & exhibition games, I think Flames can write another cheque & get him to start in Stockton, can they not? I would rather him go to Stockton than Sweden if I were the Flames.

          • Baalzamon

            Of course they can get him to go to Stockton, but it’s not like the Heat are short on forwards or anything. For the record, I think the AHL would be better for him in some ways too (longer season, for starters). It’s more a feeling than anything else. I just think he’ll choose to fulfill his contractual obligation to Rogle.

    • BurningSensation

      Nice catch!

      I’m holding out hope the Flames are going to move up to 3, or take Keller at 6.

      But I’ll say this about BT, he never shows you his hand till after the bets are made. After he wheeled Hamilton out of Boston (and also from the greedy hands of the Oilers), I literally would not be surprised at anything he pulls off.

      In BT we trust ☺

      • supra steve

        Keller intrigues me as well. I, like the rest of you, don’t know enough about any of these kids, but what I have read sounds like he could be far better than good. And he’s almost a year younger than Matthews.

        At this point I’m confident in BT’s coaching hire. I am, however, enjoying reading the posts of all the Screaming Mimis who are sure the apocalypse is upon us.

      • Trevy

        I totally agree, BT keeps things very close to the vest when it comes to trade talk. I’m entirely confident he’s looking at every scenario of both moving up or down in the draft. In the end, I’m ok with any of the mentioned forwards (Keller/Nylander), but for some reason, I don’t think we should disregard them picking a dman. As I mentioned in the past, having a plethora of quality defenseman is a luxury that could be used to parlay one of them in a trade for the right young forward.

    • jakethesnail

      I guess you suspect that Burkie was running interference with a smoke bomb when he re-iterated the other day that the Flames need to get bigger to get out of the Pacific Division with ANA/JOSE/LA and STL in the conference?

  • jakethesnail

    To be successful in his first year the GM has to provide GG with a Number One goalie, get rid of the bum contracts and non performers and bring up more youth. If Tre does this the Flames will be In Like Flint an playoff bound.

    Not likely Tre can accomplish all of this in the summer..so success for GG is the Flames being competitive game in and game out and be at least close to a playoff position…

        • Thunder1

          Squiggly,

          I don’t get it. Are you saying instead of the correct reference, “in like Flynn,” as pointed out quite eloquently by Smelly, that you are referencing the likelihood that Treliving will in fact be “in like Flint,” circa. 1978ish swarthy detective character James Coburn and his penchant for living with three women?

          If this is true, I recommend you let Connie and the boys know to watch out in the room before it’s too late.