New Calgary Wranglers head coach Trent Cull returns to his AHL roots
Photo credit:Eric Boldt/Calgary Wranglers
By Ryan Pike2 months ago
Over the past few seasons, the Calgary Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate has developed a strong reputation. The Stockton Heat won the AHL’s Pacific Division in 2021-22, and the relocated Calgary Wranglers repeated the feat in 2022-23, with head coach Mitch Love being named coach of the year in each season.
When Love departed the Flames organization for a gig with the Washington Capitals, Trent Cull jumped at the opportunity to return to a familiar spot for him in the AHL. Cull was named the new Wranglers’ head coach on Monday.
“It was something that I wanted to do,” said Cull. “Just for me personally, I really enjoyed being a head coach at the American Hockey League level and when I saw that Mitch had made the move, I reached out immediately.”
Cull progressed through interviews with Flames vice-president/assistant general manager Brad Pascall over the past few weeks, and his hiring with the Wranglers was cemented over the weekend. Cull noted that his 46-game stint in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks in 2022-23 was beneficial to him, despite its short duration.
“Even though it was a small time in the National Hockey League for me, I enjoyed it and I learned a lot,” said Cull. “It was nice. Sometimes when you’ve been a head coach for five years and then you get a reset by being an assistant, it helps you and you get to learn about the players in the National Hockey League. You get to learn about the coaches. It might have been a shorter experience than maybe what I wanted, it was really good for me and I just realized that I wanted to go back and apply it and be part of it.”
“And I’ll be honest with you, the other thing is I love running my own ship. I love being back to being a head [coach] and how those interactions go and it’s been awesome. And that’s probably one of those things that I couldn’t wait to do.”
Cull arrives in Calgary with a good deal of experience as both a minor-league player and coach. He played junior hockey in the OHL, spending a season alongside Cail MacLean with the Kingston Frontenacs, and three months of his 10 seasons in minor-pro were spent alongside current Flames head coach Ryan Huska with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. He noted he’s kept in touch with both men over the years, which should help Cull align systems and strategies between the NHL and AHL clubs.
As a player, Cull spent time in the systems of Toronto, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. As a coach, he’s spent time in the systems of Columbus, Tampa Bay and Vancouver. Based on his varied experiences, he understands the value of player development.
“Tampa did a great job drafting,” said Cull. “So does Calgary, and why I can say that, is coaching against the Stockton team two years ago, just some of the pieces that were on the ice, you’re just ‘wow, really good players.’ That’s where I see that it’s exciting to be part of that organization and be able to work with those players and how fun that is. And it’s rewarding, it’s really rewarding, and I look forward to getting to know the players. And that’s the fun part about being a coach. You get to work with these guys, you get to know what makes them tick, and then watching them succeed.”
Entering an environment where the AHL club has been successful in recent seasons, Cull noted the balancing act between winning games and developing young players by playing them in key situations.
“It is a balancing act, but if you’re patient and have some perspective with it, I think that the outcome is everyone kind of wins, I feel like,” said Cull. “But sometimes at the start of the year, you might lose a couple games but hopefully by the end of the year you’re winning it because those guys are the same guys that are out there and they know what to do in those situations.”
Cull’s in the process of relocating to Calgary. The Flames are taking part in the Young Stars Classic tournament in Penticton from Sept. 15-18, then begin their pre-season calendar on Sept. 24. The Wranglers begin their 2023-24 regular season on Oct. 13.
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