The Calgary Flames are due for some changes. Three straight years without a postseason appearance and an aging roster has brought up many questions that need answers during the offseason. On April 12, the Flames answered the first of their questions only to bring up another.
The Flames announced that head coach Brent Sutter would not be returning, nor would assistant coach Dave Lowry. The answer to whether the team would bring back Sutter for another year brought up but another question looking for an answer.
Who will be the new head coach?
General manager Jay Feaster has made it clear that plenty of time will be put into the search for the next bench boss so there is no real timetable of when the formal announcement will be made. Feaster may be taking his time to find the right candidate and rightfully so, but here are some of the guys he may have in mind as the teams’ next head coach.
Todd McLellan is the current head coach for the San Jose Sharks, but there are certainly a lot of questions surrounding his future in California. The reason I put McLellan on the list is simply because if the Sharks choose to let him go, there is a good chance he could be Calgary bound.
The Sharks are another team who may be in need of some changes in the coaching department and some fans are calling for just that. Some recent decisions made by McLellan have been questionable and have played a part in the Sharks’ underwhelming playoff performances recently.
This isn’t to say that McLellan is a bad coach, but his time in San Jose may be limited, paving the way for a possible Calgary coaching job.
Dallas Eakins is the current head coach for the Toronto Marlies (the Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate) of the AHL and was believed to be the frontrunner to replace Ron Wilson behind the Leafs’ bench earlier this year. However, Leafs general manager Brian Burke chose to go with Randy Carlyle, thus leaving Eakins down in the minors.
Eakins has not been shy about wanting to be an NHL coach, and being passed over by the Maple Leafs may have him looking elsewhere in the big leagues.
Eakins has received good reviews during his three years as head coach for the Marlies, with many saying it would be no surprise if an NHL team chose to hire him for next season. Eakins also has one season as assistant coach of the Marlies before moving up to assistant coach for two season with the Maple Leafs.
Bob Hartley’s name has been mentioned in a few conversations regarding the Flames coaching job. He is currently coaching in Switzerland with for the ZSC Lions, and it is said that his contract won’t allow him to leave back to the NHL.
However, the case for Hartley could be strong. He has a very long track record of coaching, including winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2000-01 and has spent time as a head coach in the NHL for nine seasons. Hartley was also the coach in charge of the AHL’s Hershey Bears when Feaster was with that team so there are some ties between the two.
His current contract may be a problem, but you can’t help but think Hartley may be strongly considered by the Flames.
Brad Shaw is currently serving as assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues and has a long record of coaching at various levels of hockey.
Shaw has been the head coach in three pro leagues, coaching the Detroit Vipers of the IHL, the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL, and also stepping in as a mid-season replacement for the New York Islanders in the NHL.
Shaw has been patient in waiting for the opportunity to become a head coach on a more permanent basis in the NHL, and he is very respected around the league so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Shaw’s name in the mix for the Flames. Shaw also has some ties to Flames general manager Jay Feaster as he was an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1999-00 while Feaster was in the front office there.
Troy Ward is currently the head coach with the Flames’ affiliate team, the Abbotsford Heat. He has gained a lot of attention when it comes to looking for the next Flames bench boss due to his exceptional job in the AHL.
He’s a coach that is committed to getting to know the players on his team very well, and guiding them step-by-step, which could be perfect for a Flames team who has a lot of talented youth coming up in the system.
Jay Feaster has had nothing but good things to say about Ward’s work with the Heat, and he will surely get a hard look whenever his season ends with the Heat. A downside to bringing up Ward to the big club is that it may disrupt the development he has built up in the AHL so well, so that will be considered when the formal interviews are underway.
There are a few coaches who may also be in the mix for the Flames, if they choose to interview many candidates, some of these guys may also be considered.
Mike Sullivan (assistant coach, New York Rangers NHL) – Sullivan could be a legitimate chance if he chooses to strongly pursue a head coach position. Sullivan spent time as the head coach for the Boston Bruins for two seasons and has five other seasons as assistants in the NHL. He was also hired by Feaster in 2007-08 as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s assistant coach.
Bob Boughner (head coach, Windsor Spitfires OHL) – Boughner has an impressive coaching record in the OHL coaching Windsor to two Memorial Cups, but he doesn’t have much other coaching experience other than a one-year stint as assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL. Boughner does have ties with the Flames themselves, playing there for two seasons and serving as co-captain with current Flames special assistant to the general manager Craig Conroy.