Losing Mitch Love is tough, but Craig Conroy’s reasoning is understandable

Photo credit:Photo courtesy the Stockton Heat
Jeff Middleton
9 months ago
The Calgary Flames have been through a roller coaster ride so far this off-season, and we haven’t even made it to the NHL Draft yet. However, through all of this turmoil, the coaching staff is officially set for the upcoming 2023-24 season, with Ryan Huska leading the charge as the newest head coach. He was introduced for that role in a press conference on June 12 by the new general manager, Craig Conroy.
A coaching search in a market like Calgary inherently comes with plenty of rumours and opinions on who should be the next bench boss, especially in a crucial time like the Flames are in currently. For example, I wrote about why a retread coach like Gerard Gallant shouldn’t be the choice, and I also wrote about why Andrew Brunette was my favourite candidate on the market. However, there was one candidate that I didn’t talk about as much (and probably should have), and that was Mitch Love.
Love was reportedly (and unsurprisingly) deep in the running for the head coaching vacancy before Huska was eventually hired, and now that those decisions have been made, the two-time AHL coach of the year is headed to the Washington Capitals organization to be an assistant to Spencer Carbury, the team’s new head coach.
To some, it was frustrating from the get-go that Love didn’t get the job, and now that he’s out of the organization entirely, some are left with an even more bitter taste in their mouths. He was the leading candidate to numerous people because of what he did in the AHL with the Calgary Wranglers alone and how he helped develop the organization’s best prospects. However, every decision, especially one made by the new general manager who has never held this position before, has some sort of reasoning. Conroy explains in the clip below why he chose Huska over Love in the end.
There is lots to take in from the video, but the quote below is what really stood out after watching it a couple of times.
“I think he needs a little time in the NHL. There’s a step, and there’s a learning curve. To just get thrust into that without going through that, it’s not fair to him. I know he believes 100% that he can do it, and I’m not saying he couldn’t. But for me, being a first-time GM in the league, to have someone that has kind of gone through the steps the way I envision it in my mind was probably the difference in making the hire. I felt like Ryan was 100% the guy for me”
To simplify, it sounds as if Conroy believes Love deserved time as an assistant coach before being thrown into the fire as the head coach of an NHL team. Of course, I’m more than willing to believe that he would have gotten the benefit of the doubt from the fans if there were mistakes made along the way, but the man in the GM chair believed the long game was the best option for Love.
It’s annoying to lose someone with a clear talent for making players better and designing systems that help his teams perform to the best of their ability when he was in the palm of your hand to be hired. However, there should be an understanding that Conroy decided to make this decision because he didn’t want Love to be so focused on the pressure that comes with coaching a delicate team like the Flames.
It would be totally fair to ask why he wasn’t brought in as an assistant for the NHL staff if the experience is what Conroy wanted before moving Love to the head coaching position. However, it’s not a question I can answer. What I do know is that the Flames organization lost a talented coach, and even though the reasoning might be justified, as Conroy believes it’s in the best interest of Love and his career, that doesn’t mean it hurts any less.

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