Glen Gulutzan (Head Coach)
Our Individual Grades
The most amazing difference between the Flames playoff run two years ago was the penalty differential. While two years ago the Flames had the best one in the N.H.L., this year they were last in the West and still managed to make the playoffs. That speaks to how much better the Flames were at even strength and much of that was because of Gulutzan.
Gulutzan did well enough in his first year to make them a much better team. The systems looked much better at even strength and there was a huge difference on the penalty kill as well, not falling for the trap of just trying to block shots but actively trying to get possession and clear the puck. As for the power play, well let’s just not talk about that.
There were some negatives. Sam Bennett was scapegoated for playing poorly with the likes of Lance Bouma and Troy Brouwer - basically an unwinnable situation for any player, much less a 20 year old. Speaking of Brouwer, he got way too much ice time down the stretch when it was starting to become apparent that he was a sunk cost. The two guys that were signed to be cap fodder (Niklas Grossmann and Matt Bartkowski) got way too much playing time; Bartkowski in particular killed them in the series against the Anaheim Ducks. Brett Kulak did quite well playing with Deryk Engelland (the tandem had the second best CF Rel - quite the accomplishment considering Engelland’s skillset), yet was shipped off to the minors when he could have potentially been the answer on the left side of T.J. Brodie and given the Flames a second quality pairing which was something they lacked all year.
Still, this was Gulutzan’s first year and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that this year is not like most normal years. The expansion draft is coming and there are likely some good reasons for at least some of the decisions. Kulak may have actually played too well and it’s possible the Flames sent him down to keep him hidden from view so that he would not get selected by the Las Vegas Golden Knights. They may have continued to throw Brouwer out there in hopes that he could establish a high enough volume of points to make him look attractive, thus potentially clearing what is clearly a bad contract. Grossmann and Bartkowski getting playing time, well they’re just inexplicable so some points had to be deducted.
I wasn’t a “fire him now!” supporter, but I did have my doubts about Glen Gulutzan as the Flames season unfolded. The high priced stars were struggling and he seemed to be lost with who to play with who and where. But Gulutzan turned it around and his ripping of the team in public was much needed. Calgary responded and ended up making the playoffs. I’m looking forward to seeing what Gulutzan’s future with the Flames looks like. He’s fairly mellow and doesn’t appear to be a classic sabre rattler, but it looks like the Flames have bought into the system and only good can come from that.
Early in the season I wrote a piece talking about how long Gulutzan’s leash was with the Flames. Since then he turned this club back into a playoff team and had he received even average goaltending in the playoffs, this team could’ve made some noise. He seems to be a coach that won’t throw his players under the bus but at the same time recognizes the high expectations that they have, and will call them out if necessary. He got the team back into the playoffs in his first year, and now that the systems are set, I’ll be very interested to see how the team does when they get a good start to the season. If only he could win a freaking coaches challenge.
I am quite happy with Gulutzan’s initial season. People were losing their minds at the start of the year after a slow start, but I was a believer in what he was preaching and that the transition would not be seamless. Once things adjusted, the team had great success and Gulutzan deserves a lot of credit for that. Special teams were strong and the Flames moved from being one of the worst 5-on-5 teams in controlling play to one of the better teams in the league. It is pretty obvious to see that most players would prefer to play for a coach like him rather than Hartley.
My biggest issue would be some of his personnel decisions, such as keeping the failed Bennett-Brouwer pairing on for so long, as well as overusing players like Bartkowski and Engelland over Kulak. But, he actually gave players like Hamilton and Ferland the opportunity to succeed and fully utilized the talent of Mikael Backlund. I’m a fan and look forward to seeing what he can accomplish with the team next season.
Our Final Grade: B+
Thus concludes our 2016-17 report card series! Thank you to all the writers for adding their opinions and to the readers for taking the time to read the report cards and vote in the polls.
What’s your Grade for Head Coach Glen Gulutzan’s season?
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