The Calgary Flames coaching search has finally come to a conclusion. While I was a little unsure about him when his name started swirling in rumours earlier this week, Glen Gulutzan sounds exactly like the sort of coach the Flames needed to hire. He was not the sexiest name out there, most fans probably did not know a ton about him, but he seems like the right coach to help the Flames take the next step forward. He has experience at all levels. He was head coach and general manager in the ECHL for years; he spent a couple of seasons coaching in the AHL before having two above .500 seasons in the NHL with Dallas. He did not make the playoffs, but this was a time the Stars roster was looking quite poor and ultimately he was fired after new ownership in Dallas wanted to clean the slate. He then spent three years as an assistant in Vancouver, working alongside John Tortorella and new Stanley Cup Champion coach Mike Sullivan for a year, and then worked alongside Willie Desjardins. The guy has been around the hockey world. He is on the younger end of things for an NHL coach at age 44, but he seems like a progressive and forward thinking coach that will bring new thinking into the way the Flames organization plays. Here is a link to a conference of Gulutzan talking about developing defensemen, you can see a lot into how he thinks the game and it is quite heartening to hear how he thinks about the game.
Gulutzan is inherently a teacher; his father was a teacher and Gulutzan himself went to university to study education. The Flames future depends on a young core in Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, Micheal Ferland, among others. They also have a group of prospects that should be pushing to make the NHL in the next couple of years in their 2016 sixth overall pick, Emile Poirier, Hunter Shinkaruk, Mark Jankowski, Tyler Wotherspoon, Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson and Jon Gillies. That is just to name some of the young talent the organization possesses. The future of this team lies in their youth, they need a coach that can work to bring along these players into the NHL and give them the opportunity to succeed. One of the big issues with Bob Hartley was that while he gave Monahan and Gaudreau a ton of ice time, he was seldom willing to give young AHL players solid ice time when they were brought up to Calgary. Gulutzan has been largely praised for helping bring along Jamie Benn into the league and today Benn is one of the best players in the NHL.
The Flames struggled in terms of possession play throughout Bob Hartley's tenure. While it remains to be seen as to whether Gulutzan can lead the Flames to above 50% possession statistics for the first time in years, listening to him talk about his coaching philosophy inspires promise. In his press conference today, one of the first questions he was asked was on how to improve the possession metrics for the Flames. Gulutzan praised the ability that Calgary's defensemen possess, speaking of how he wants the team to defend fast and get the puck back. This is a stark contrast to the philosophy that Bob Hartley seemed to preach of letting the opposition have the puck and relying on blocking shots to get it back. Gulutzan says there will be a bit of a style change for the team (which is completely necessary in order for the team to improve) but he plans on the team continuing to play an exciting up-tempo game and he will still be giving the Flames' dynamic defense the opportunity to jump up into play. This all sounds of a coach that is very in touch with what the players on the Flames can do to succeed, but he also has a vision of how they can strengthen the deficiencies that have plagued the team in recent years. Remember how horrendous the Flames penalty kill has been the last couple years? Gulutzan was in charge of the Canucks' penalty kill and it ranked ninth, second and seventeenth over the last 3 years and it is not like Vancouver had the most talented team around in that period of time.
Today, it looks like Glen Gulutzan may have been a savvy hire that can help grow the Flames organization. A young, forward thinking coach, known to forge strong connections with players and develop young talent is what this team needs. Given where the Flames organization is today, Gulutzan seems like the logical coaching selection to help the team take the next step forward, out of the rebuild and into working towards becoming a contender for the Stanley Cup. Hiring Gulutzan may not get the Flames into the playoffs next year, (a new goalie may have more of an impact on that) but his work could help the Flames develop into being a formidable team in the future. None of this is certain, he could very well fall flat and the team may go nowhere under him, but there is always a risk in hirings like these. Overall, it looks promising and with Gulutzan being the man Brad Treliving picked for the job after spending over 40 days of intensely searching, you have to believe that he will be the right fit for the organization. Also, he is not Randy Carlyle.