Bob Hartley was a bit of a surprise announcement for Flames fans, as he was strongly rumored to be going to the Montreal Canadiens.
Hartley would have been a natural fit for Montreal, as French is his first language. So now that the news has broke, we can digest what it means across the board.
Iginla is not being traded
In the end of the year presser Feaster explicitly stated that all players were open to evaluation and potential movement. When directly asked he refused to take anyone off the table.
This coupled with the fact Jarome Iginla stated he did not want to be part of a rebuilding team set off a small flurry of speculation he may be traded in the off-season.
Don't bet on that happening now. If Troy Ward was named coach, the Flames would be more inclined in this direction. In fairness to Feaster & Co, they may have got a list of teams from Iggy, shook the trees in the marketplace and not liked what they heard as potential offers.
Either way the bottom line is that you can pretty safely expect Iginla to pull on the Flaming C now under Bob Hartley.
Kipper is not being traded
Again, same theme as Iginla. Flames fans in the rebuild camp were anxious to see one of the big two blue chip players moved in the off-season for a tasty return. Kipper had the potential for a great return, there should be Goalie demand for him this off-season etc.
The problem for the Flames though is that Karri Ramo will not be here next year yet and unless a Kipper trade included another starting Goalie coming back, the Flames would have been horribly vulnerable in net with a very inexperienced Leland Irving and a less than impressive Henrik Karlsson.
This option is off the table. It is highly unlikely Kipper will be moved now and the Flames will likely ride him into the sunset where he will retire a Flame, some speculation remains if he will even play his final contract year when real dollars paid to him are only 1.5 million.
Losing Troy Ward is on the Horizon
Troy Ward has one more year on his contract as coach of the Heat and is anxious to make the jump to the NHL level. Ward has gotten rave reviews from players, turned a pretty shallow Heat team into a decent performer and under adverse conditions.
If he had been named coach of the Flames it would have been a signal the team was going to rebuild. A indication the team was going to move Iginla and / or Kipper. Instead the Flames are likely to lose Ward at the end of his contract as his performance must be getting the attention of other NHL teams, who are willing to give him a crack at the big time.
For rebuild advocates losing Ward will hurt. He is already proven with young players and would have been a good coach to have for a team of young players.
More Offensive Flames in 2012 / 13
"I can promise you and I can promise the fans that we will not only give you entertaining hockey, but we will make sure that the Calgary Flames are a top team in the National Hockey League." Bob Hartley
Hartley is not in tune with the Calgary market yet. This statement actually made me cringe, not the first part but the second part. Promising the fan base that the Flames are going to be a top team in the NHL smacks of the same fluff and puff that Feaster dropped in the pre-season last year.
Hollow rhetoric at this stage for the fan base.
I'll give Hartley a pass on that but he has to clue in, as he certainly will, that after 3 years out of the playoffs Flames fans are certainly past the rhetoric stage from management and looking for concrete results or the dramatic action of rebuild moves.
The more interesting first part regarding "entertaining hockey" means to me a more open, offensive system.
That is not surprising. Brent Sutter refused to adjust to the skill sets of the players he had, constantly over three years harping on everyone buying in and committing to the system, even in the face of some skilled players significantly struggling under it.
Iginla was not sheltered and Hartley does have a decent set of skilled players, albeit older ones, still skilled ones with some tread on the tire in Mike Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay, Jarome Iginla and Curtis Glencross in his top 6.
They should be able to deliver scoring and it will be interesting to see how things evolve next season on this front.
The End of the Sutter Era
It may have begun with Darryl Sutter but it did not truly end until Brent left. This hiring marks the true beginning of the Feaster era in my view.
Bob Hartley is his man through and through.
Feaster allowed Brent Sutter his control, he did not interfere, although it had to grind any GM to have a 3.5 million dollar Matt Stajan on the 4th line and Anton Babchuk, who you had just signed, spending several games in the press box as a healthy scratch.
Regardless, Feaster gave Brent Sutter his control of the team and the results or lack of are on Brent as coach. The team last year was still mainly a Darryl Sutter creation.
I still remember Feaster's very first interview when he was hired as Assistant GM to Darryl Sutter.
He openly talked about being a counter-point to Darryl Sutter's point. A foil to debate and question him. He talked about his vision of the future of NHL teams being speed and skill, which was in direct contrast to Sutter's grinding teams with the focus on Defense.
Feaster's moves have been consistent with this general direction since he took over. His hiring of Hartley should do wonders to quell the persistent rumors of him being a puppet of Ken King and Murray Edwards, the hiring of Hartley is clearly a Feaster pick and one that passed the test of others in the organization like John Weisbrod.
Feaster and Hartley are married to each other and their future is linked now.
If Hartley fails to deliver a playoff team, Feaster may find the plank being attached to the side of the good ship Flames and they both will be told to walk it 2-3 years from now.
Can Bob Hartley Get the Flames in the Playoffs ?
The Flames are coach eaters. Like a zombie high on bath salts they eat coaches with a special passion.
A team with a reputation as being difficult to coach, whether the reputation is fair or not. Since 2004, the playoff success has not been there and since 2010 the playoffs have not even been there.
Although I did not research it I am fairly confident that no team has gone through as many coaches since 2006 as the Flames have. I could be wrong but the Flames ate up 4 coaches in 6 years and that was with Brent Sutter somehow magically holding his job for 3 long years and guiding the Flames right out of the playoffs every year he was here.
Brent could have been let go at the start of last season and Feaster could have brought Hartley on prior to him signing in Zurich. That probably would have served the team better but again did Ken King kibosh that? Who knows?
Most do not believe the coach is the issue with the Flames, they have missed the playoffs so many times now that if Bob Hartley can get them in next year, Flames fans should be dancing in the streets. It will be a ringing endorsement of Hartley and what he can deliver if he does, because he is not taking on the same stronger Flames team Brent Sutter did.
He is taking on a older team than Sutter did, a aging one on a clear decline. Does Hartley even have the player pieces to make the playoffs still? He seems to think so.
The Flames are starting to become a bad joke in the NHL now. A team that has almost a universal one-liner from every hockey person whether fan / analyst / blogger or anyone who has even the most minimal hockey knowledge. That one-liner is essentially "Rebuild, trade the aging stars while they have value and get on with the process."
But the Flames have billionaire owners and deep pockets, they can throw money at the team to acquire players for years making the whole process a slow and painful death rattle. Hartley has to be the last coach for this line of thought, he has to be.
His resume is impressive, he may do it but I am not betting on any coach on earth doing that with a Flames team that chews up coaches the way the Flames have over the last several seasons. It is part of the reason why many do not believe the coach of the Flames even matters for next season.
The French Connection (Tanguay)
This is a little under the radar element of the Hartley signing.
Alex Tanguay, like Feaster, has a history with Hartley and it may play an important role on the team next year.
Tanguay came into the NHL with the Avalanche while Hartley was coach and nothing bonds people like winning championships and that is exactly what Tanguay and Hartley did in Colorado on that powerhouse team. Tanguay has insight on how Hartley will treat the young players, his demanding style. He was one of Hartley's big targets and whipping boys on the Avalanche and Hartley made him a better player.
Tanguay will also be a huge help with the young players. He was one of those who bore the brunt of Hartley’s straight-shooting ways, didn’t always love it, but eventually realized it was good for him. Randy Sportnak - QMI
Tanguay can emerge as an important player leader in the dressing room. He can help younger players understand why Hartley's hard ass approach can help them grow and be better players.
Tanguay's help doesn't end there, it also extends the other way with his realtionship with the older Vets as well and Hartley is clearly already counting on this.
"A player who is going to help me a lot at training camp is Alex Tanguay. He’s the only player in this organization I’ve had history with. I talked to him this morning and he said it was great news. He was thrilled. From systems to dealing with players, he will guide not only the rookies but he will be able to sit with Jarome and Mike Cammalleri and say this is the way it operates." - Bob Hartley
Hartley has a reputation of being able to work with temperamental veterans. Whether Iginla and Cammy qualify as this or not is something one can debate. The point here though is there is a player in the dressing room who could be a critical asset to him.
Did Brent Sutter have this kind of help? Playfair? Keenan? Maybe it is the issue - a true connection of a respected player on the roster who truly is behind the coach.
Bob Hartley is a good hire for the Flames. That coach with the ability to handle very young players and much older Vets is on his resume. Is that the missing feature that Sutter lacked with his history of success in junior but lack of success with older players.
Playfair with his disconnect with older players and rumored tension with Iginla and Keenan with his mind games to get under the skin and draw out the best of players by irritating them.
Who knows how Bob Hartley will do? He sure seems excited to be in Calgary and that is great. He has a winning record with championships at every level. Even his time in Atlanta illustrated an ability to improve a challenging team season after season.
If he somehow manages to get the Flames in the playoffs, it will be a success for him. Getting the Flames to perform as a top NHL team, well, that seems really over the top as an expectation unless something really unexpected happens in the off-season.
I am sure some moves will be made this off-season but nothing earth shaking.
Tweaks around the edges and to me the future of the Flames rests a lot more on how Sven and Cervenka perform next year under Hartley rather than Hartley himself, there is only so much a coach can do in my view.