The Calgary Flames have an opportunity to chart a new course with new GM and coach
Photo credit:Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports
By Ryan Pike6 months ago
The Calgary Flames have been part of the National Hockey League since 1972. Since the franchise’s inception, the club has had to hire a new general manager and head coach at the same time just twice. After the departures of Brad Treliving and Darryl Sutter from the organization in the span of a fortnight, the Flames have the opportunity to do so for a third time.
Welcome to the great organizational reboot of 2023.
The frequent joke in pro sports is that coaches and executives are “hired to be fired.” And the majority of them tend not to have lengthy shelf lives. But if you look at the history of the Flames, very rarely have there been vacancies in management and coaching at the same time.
More often than not, because of how contracts overlap in inelegant ways, a new GM inherits an existing coach.
- In 1991, Doug Risebrough inherited himself after Cliff Fletcher resigned – Risebrough was head coach and briefly performed both roles.
- In 1995, Al Coates inherited Pierre Page after Risebrough was fired.
- In 2003, Sutter inherited himself after Craig Button’s contract wasn’t extended – Sutter was head coach and performed both roles for a couple seasons.
- In 2010, Jay Feaster inherited Brent Sutter after Darryl Sutter resigned.
- In 2013, Brian Burke inherited Bob Hartley after Feaster was fired. In 2014, Treliving inherited Hartley after he was hired by Burke.
That leaves two instances where a brand-new GM was able to hire their own head coach, 1972 and 2000:
1972 was pretty simple: the Flames were brand-new. They hired Fletcher to be the club’s first GM, and he hired Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion to helm the expansion club. Geoffrion was the first of six head coaches Fletcher hired, swapping out bench bosses every three or four seasons as the Flames gradually progressed from an under-manned expansion team into a powerhouse in the 1980s.
2000 was similarly simple: the Flames hadn’t made the playoffs since 1996 (or won a series since 1989) and with fan interest waning as the team prepared to host the NHL Draft, president Ron Bremner hit the reset button. Out were Coates as GM and Brian Sutter as head coach, part of a fairly broad culling of the hockey operations side of the club. The Flames ended up hiring Button as GM and Don Hay as head coach. Hay was replaced before the end of his first season, beginning a cycle of fairly frequent coaching replacements every season or two – with few exceptions – that has persisted until present day.
Inheriting a previous manager’s head coach isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s not like NHL GMs just pick names out of a hat when they’re getting a new coach. But the challenge with an inherited coach is that the new GM inherits some of the previous manager’s choices, and part of the reason for a management changeover is often that something philosophically wasn’t quite clicking with the prior regime. In that sense, carrying over a big piece of the previous regime’s philosophy – their coach – can be challenging, and make getting a full reboot of the organization challenging.
For the first time in 23 years, the Flames have an opportunity to have a major philosophical reboot of their organization and chart a new course with a brand-new GM and head coach. Given the extreme rarity of these opportunities in their franchise’s history, this will be one of the most important summers they’ve ever experienced.
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