The Calgary Flames were dissatisfied with their on-ice product, leading to the organization’s decision to part ways with head coach Bob Hartley on Tuesday.
The Flames took a large step back in the standings back after a surprise playoff run in 2014-15. They finished fifth in the Pacific Division and their goal differential dropped from plus-25 to minus-29 this season.
In a guest appearance on Prime Time Sports, Flames president Brian Burke provided insight into the decision to move on from Hartley and re-iterated that it was Hartley’s entire body of work and not just this year’s performance that led to the firing.
“I think it boils down to three or four basic points that (general manager Brad Treliving) outlined (in his press conference earlier on Tuesday),” Burke told co-hosts Bob McCown and John Shannon. “He wants a physical team. A big, aggressive team. And a truculent team. I hate to use that term because it’ll make everyone laugh but our vision is that we want that kind of team. We like that kind of hockey. Our fans like it and we think it’s essential to winning in the West.
“We want to be a black and blue team,” Burke added. “A top six, bottom six type (of) team that likes it rough. A puck possession team. So plenty of skill in the top six. We think we have that core group here.”
Burke, who took blame for not doing enough to upgrade the goaltending situation, added the team’s lack of special teams production and the overall coaching system also contributed to the decision.
“We think puck possession is hard to come by and we prefer puck possession play to what we played, which was chip it in and go get it,” he said. “We didn’t have a big enough (team) to back it up. The third thing would be special teams. You got to average somewhere around 15 on your special teams. You can be 30th overall on your penalty kill but you better be first on the power play. We were in the bottom five on both. You’re not going to win in this league if you’re not league average or up.”
Otherwise, Burke didn’t give a timeline on when the Flames expect to name a new coach and said they will have no issue looking at inexperienced or unproven head coaches, but said the decision could be delayed as Treliving, who is a co-GM for Team Canada at the World Championship, is en route to Russia.
“The fact that a couple jobs might be filled doesn’t bother us,” he said. “We’re not in any rush. We’ll probably set up some interviews for when he’s back or maybe my staff will interview some of the younger candidates. We’re not in any hurry here.
“Brad will be the guy that hires this coach. I’m here to help him and assist him and oversee it. Just like Ken King does that for me. Brad will do it his way. He might interview 20 people. I don’t know.”
However, Burke did outline how he has done his hiring in the past and said since he spends all year collecting information on coaches, including at the NHL, AHL, and junior level, he usually has a shortlist of just one or two in mind when he is ready to interview other head coaches.
“I’m interviewing 365 days a year,” he explained. “The people don’t realize it. I went to a junior game in Barrie last Saturday night. We have two kids who play there and so it’s a playoff game. What do you do first? You get there and meet with both coaches. I’m interviewing all the time. You see a coach in an airport, I’ll sit down and talk to him. I go to AHL games and my team’s not even playing and I’ll go see both coaches…You got a short list in mind, people you’re comfortable with and you go through the process, and the interview should be a formality if you’ve done your homework.”