'In __________ We Trust'
On the eve of the Stanley Cup Finals where Flames fans will watch former General Manager and Coach Darryl Sutter compete for a Stanley Cup, many remember the days when the motto around Calgary was ‘In Sutter We Trust’. After a few questionable trades, no playoff success and his eventual resignation, the Flames organization have continued on the path of mediocrity, right where Darryl left us.
Jay Feaster has tried to put his stamp on his franchise but with the same win now, just make the playoffs mentality not much has changed. Feaster now has his chance to possibly making the biggest impact on this franchise by picking HIS choice for the Flames new bench boss. With every coach now available (minus Darryl and Peter DeBoer who aren’t going anywhere), the Flames can focus solely on their coaching search and in my opinion should have it official before the draft on June 22nd.
There are many options for the Flames as they could go with new blood or go with experience and hire a recycled coach from around the league (so help me god if they go this route). Names like Ron Wilson, Marc Crawford, Craig MacTavish and Bob Hartley headline the experience column while Troy Ward (Abbotsford Heat), Mike Johnston (Portland Winterhawks- WHL) and Mike Sullivan (Assistant New York Rangers) spotlight the new blood category.
This is an extremely important summer for the Flames organization as fans have started to get restless and time is running out on the Flames aging core. While I don’t think the Flames will trade either Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff this summer, whoever is chosen as the new bench boss will probably have one season to go for the franchise’ second Stanley Cup. If this team once again fails, the new coach could also be looked upon to guide a rebuild.
Choose wisely Mr. Feaster.
Here are my top three candidates for the Flames Head Coaching vacancy.
1. Mike Sullivan
Sullivan, who is the assistant coach with the New York Rangers and right hand man to John Tortorella, is my front runner to become the Flames next head coach. Sullivan who has been with the Rangers for three seasons now has been widely rumored to be leaving New York to become a head coach somewhere around the league. Sullivan, who played for the Flames from ’93 to ’97, has been a head coach in the NHL, spending two season with the Boston Bruins with a regular season record of 70-56-15, a 3-4 playoff record and a Northeast Division title. Sullivan also has connections to Feaster as an assistant coach in Tampa Bay. Adding more to his resume, Sullivan was the head coach for the U.S. Men’s team at the 2007 World Championships and was an assistant for the U.S. Men’s Olympic team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. Something in my gut gives me the feeling that it’s only a matter of time before the Flames make Sullivan the 15th Head Coach in Franchise history. Sullivan seems to have the knowledge of today’s game and the right presence behind the bench to make him successful.
2. Troy Ward
What a path it has been for Ward, who is the bench boss of the Flames top affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat. Ward, who is in his first head coaching gig in a decade, at one time walked away from coaching for personal reasons. Ward led the Heat to a 42-26-8 record this season and a 2nd round appearance in the AHL playoffs. His only taste of the NHL came as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins under Kevin Constantine ('97-'99). Ward has said to be extremely dedicated and can handle any circumstance and player. I think Ward has done a great job from what I’ve heard and has a bright future in hockey but with only one season under his belt in Abbotsford, his time hasn’t arrived just yet.
3. Craig Hartsburg
Hartsburg would join the likes of Ron Wilson, Marc Crawford etc. under the recycled head coach section. Hartsburg has a wealth of coaching experience, including head coaching stints with the Anaheim Ducks (1998-2000/01) and the Ottawa Senators in 2009 where he lasted a mere 48 games. Do I think Hartsburg will be the Flames next head coach, no but I question why he was the only coach retained at the end of the season. That either tells me Hartsburg is a candidate or that Feaster and the Flames plan to go with a coach with less experience (see Sullivan and Ward) and have Hartsburg alongside for his experience.
I’m glad Flames management has taken their time thus far in their search but I do think it is necessary for them to have a coach in place before the draft. To me Sullivan fits the bill and hope Feaster and co. agree.
Stay tuned to TCL West all summer long for all things Flames from the draft to free agency. Also check in on TCL West before the draft on June 22nd, for my annual mock draft where I’ll try to predict the first round.
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