Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving wasted no time in turfing head coach Glen Gulutzan a little more than a week after the season ended in utter failure, and it was clear to everyone his haste in making moves was because he already had a replacement all but officially on board.
On Monday, the inking of the 17th head coach in franchise history was made official and the team welcomed Bill Peters to the fold without so much as interviewing another candidate.
A quick decision made with little hesitation, the team’s tactician of transactions is comfortable knowing he has hitched his future to that of his latest coach’s — the third Treliving has issued contracts to in less than four calendar years after handing his inherited Bob Hartley an extension during the 2014-15 campaign, and then hiring Gulutzan when the players tired of the former’s tyranny.
Treliving, though, knows of the dangers of the Coaching Carousel, which has been historically difficult to slow here in Calgary — churning through seven different bench bosses in the 11 years since the lockout of 2004-05. That’s Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers territory turnover… a recipe that hasn’t been successful for any of those teams’ championship aspirations. The Flames themselves have won a single playoff round in 13 seasons.
The Flames GM believes Peters is the man who can stop the cycle and provide stability, but he also knows that in order to truly slow the momentum of the carousel, a significant roster shakeup or two may have to accompany the addition of the latest master of messaging. He alluded to the fact as he announced the Gulutzan firing by ensuring everyone listening knew his players — and even himself — were not being relieved of their own responsibility in the mess of a season.
As assembled, this is a potentially dangerous core group of players.
That might sound dramatic, but players hold a great deal of power in today’s NHL. Never has their relationship with their coach been more important. Hence Peters’ intention to spend the summer really getting to know his new charges.
“We all know the players have changed quite a bit,” Peters said of the Millennial NHL while chatting with Flames Nation voice Pat Steinberg and colleague Rob Kerr on Sportsnet960’s afternoon show on Monday. “It’s a different way of communicating. They’re used to more instant gratification, instant answers. They have questions and they want answers. And they’re good questions. They’re a very intelligent group. There’s more time spent with the individual than there ever has been.”
Peters needs to be able to both challenge and unite the group, whatever it looks like come the fall.
In just a few years, the Flames’ carryover players have already learned they have the power to create change through both their actions on the ice and words off it, while remaining relatively unscathed as individuals. When they soured on the hardness of Hartley and missed the playoffs following a surprise season that saw the motivated and resilient squad make it to the second round and earn their head coach the Jack Adams Award, they commented on the coach’s difficult demeanor and sealed his fate during exit meetings.
Inconsistencies plagued the team in two years under Gulutzan, who was unable to establish any sort of identity for this collection of players, guiding them to a first round sweep one spring ago and then watching them stumble down the stretch to miss them altogether this season. The players were happy with their friendly and genuine good guy Gully, but their apparent collective acceptance of defeat didn’t make the GM and those above him happy.
So Gully was sent to the Gallows, too.
The hope is Peters lands somewhere in between Hartley and Gulutzan on the humiliating hierarchy — the perfect mix of motivator and mate. Because if he doesn’t, what’s to prevent the current batch of players from firing up that carousel again?
For that reason, the new dynamic duo of Treliving and Peters will spend coming days, weeks and months picking apart the roster, with Peters gleaning what he can from his introductory talks and debriefings. Important decisions will be made to ensure the culture Peters plans to bring to the dressing room is going to be well-received.
“Culture’s huge,” Peters said Monday. “You’ve got to be there for each other. You’ve got to have each other’s backs. You’ve got to be proud of the logo that’s on the front of the jersey.”
The coach went on to reference the C of Red rocking, but may have meant the Red Mile from the run of 2004. Either way, that’s what he wants to “get back to” in his time with the Flames.
Displaying a surprisingly deep knowledge of the Flames roster and prospect pool considering he’s only had a few days to study, Peters has said all the right things over his first couple of days at the helm, maybe even winning over some of the skeptics in the fan base.
Winning over the players is next.
But make no mistake, they’re being interviewed for a future with the Flames in the process.
Peters is seeking competitive players who play disciplined games and are accountable to their actions.
“I want players who can’t be intimidated,” he said. “I don’t want a player, whether he’s big, small or medium-sized, to compromise his game because he’s playing a certain individual.
“I’m fine with penalties through aggression and competing. I’m not fine with penalties that are stick penalties that are in the O-zone, that are reaching penalties or hooking, tripping – those types of penalties that are avoidable.”
And in the end…
“You’ve got to hold guys accountable. If something’s not working, you’ve either got to change the system or change the players. There’s a reason things don’t work.”
The system isn’t changing much — Treliving made sure of that by bringing in someone of the same ideology as Gulutzan. The method of implementation, however, seems like it will be significantly different.
The roster may be, too.