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How Long is Glen Gulutzan’s Leash with the Calgary Flames?

Some are already calling for his head 14 games into the season

NHL: Preseason-Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Glen Gulutzan was supposed to be the coach who elevated the Calgary Flames from a hard working fast team that lost more games than it won, into a legitimate contender in the Western Conference. He was supposed to be the next step in the Flames’ rebuild to get this team to the next level.

After fourteen games in 2016-17, the Flames sit at a disappointing 5-8-1 record, while only managing to score 7 goals in the last five games to 19 against. The team seems to be playing a style that doesn’t suit them, and the games are a lot less entertaining with the added structure.

Granted, when coming to a new club there is a significant learning curve involved, but there have been times this season where Gulutzan has looked simply lost in Calgary.

Whether it was the constant line juggling before and during games, or the simple desire to have a player like Nicklas Grossmann on the ice ahead of Brett Kulak and Jyrki Jokipakka, there’s a lot of head scratching going on. Thank goodness he was just put on waivers by the Flames.

Another reason he was brought in, was to rectify the defensive and special teams situations that plagued the Bob Hartley era for the Flames. Alongside Dave Cameron (PP coach) and Paul Jerrard (PK coach), these issues haven’t been fixed and have been a contributing factor in most of the losses this year.

The Flames are among the very worst in the league in shot attempts per powerplay, scoring chances per powerplay, shooting % on powerplays, and in the bottom third on pretty much every other stat.

So far this season the Flames have:

  • The 28th Ranked Goals Against at 3.57 per game (3.13 last year- league worst)
  • The 28th Ranked PP at 8.3% (17.0% last year - 22nd)
  • The 29th Ranked PK at 72.4% (75.5% last year - league worst)
  • The 24th Ranked Goals For at 2.50 per game (2.79 last year - 10th)

Not all of the blame should be heaped onto Gulutzan as many of these numbers will adjust over the course of the entire season. Also this is not to mention that many players have had poor starts to the season as well.

At the end of the day though, it’s the coach’s job to put the team in a position to succeed through strong systems and inspire confidence in his players while doing so, which is something Gulutzan simply hasn’t done.

Every single stat here is worse than it was last season, and while some possession numbers are better, Gulutzan hasn’t done the job he was brought in to do which was to improve the Flames in all of these metrics.

So how long is the proverbial leash for Glen Gulutzan with the Flames? Let’s look at some quantitative data of coach firings from both midseason and offseason timeframes.

Midseason Firings
Team Coach Record Yrs w/Club Date Fired
CBJ Todd Richards 0-7-0 5 October 21
PIT Mike Johnston 15-10-3 2 December 12
MIN Mike Yeo 23-22-10 5 February 13
OTT Paul MacLean 11-11-5 4 December 8
EDM Dallas Eakins 7-19-5 2 December 15
NJ Peter DeBoer 12-17-7 4 December 26
TOR Randy Carlyle 21-16-3 4 January 6
PHI Peter Laviolette 0-3-0 5 October 7
FLA Kevin Dineen 3-9-4 3 November 8
BUF Ron Rolston 4-15-1 2 November 13
WPG Claude Noel 19-23-5 4 January 12

Offseason Firings
Team Coach Record Yrs w/Club
ANA Bruce Boudreau 46-25-11 5
CGY Bob Hartley 35-40-7 4
COL Patrick Roy 39-39-4 3
OTT Dave Cameron 38-35-9 2
BUF Ted Nolan 23-51-8 2
PHI Craig Berube 33-31-18 2
SJ Todd McLellan 40-33-9 7
CAR Kirk Muller 36-35-11 3
NSH Barry Trotz 38-32-12 15
PIT Dan Bylsma 51-24-7 6
VAN John Tortorella 36-35-11 1
WSH Adam Oates 38-30-14 2

As we can see, only one coach on the lists was fired after one season, being John Tortorella in Vancouver. Even more specifically, a new coach hasn’t been canned mid-season in his first year with a club in recent seasons.

It’s seems as though teams are willing to give their new coaches at least 1-1.5 seasons to get things going before even thinking about moving in another direction. It also looks like most mid-season firings happen in late November-December and in my opinion, that’s still much too early to make a definitive decision on Gulutzan this season.

Now let’s look at some qualitative information about this:

The Flames extensively searched for a coach for most of last summer, and it was the biggest story behind the Monahan and Gaudreau sagas. The Flames interviewed an extensive number of coaches looking to find the “right guy” for the job, both as a person and as a NHL coach. If they were to fire Gulutzan during this season, or even this offseason, it would certainly be an “egg on your face” situation for the management team.

Speaking of management, this was specifically Brad Treliving’s first head coach signing as an NHL GM. Bob Hartley was the guy from the Feaster/Burke regime and Treliving simply chose to keep things going with him until last year.

There’s a lot of pressure on Treliving for Gulutzan to perform because if his hand-picked coach can’t make his team win, then perhaps it was the players he supplied Gulutzan with that were the problem, as the spotlight would shift to him.

It’s for this reason that Treliving will give Gulutzan a good amount of time to succeed before having to make a decision about him. Brad Treliving has made a lot of very good decisions as the GM of the Flames and it’s still very early on, but some are thinking this could become his biggest failure.

If it were up to me, I’d give Gulutzan to at least early February to get this team to where it needs to be before I seriously would start to consider making changes.

However, there’s a lot riding on this from a Flames management perspective, so I very much expect him to be the coach for this entire season, and perhaps even into next season no matter what happens on the ice. Sorry Gulutzan haters, he may be here to stay for the time being.

Unfortunately for Gully, the fans may not possess the same level of patience, and I’m sure the passionate Saddledome faithful will voice their disapproval if the team continues to struggle this season.

We’re nearly 20% into the season, and it’s can no longer be about the new guy learning the new team, it has to be about the new guy improving his new team, something we haven’t seen much of yet this season, if at all.