Don Cherry saw it coming.
Before the start of the 2015-16 regular season, Cherry predicted — much to the dismay of Flames fans — that Calgary would take a step back after a surprise playoff run the year before.
In his appearance on Coach’s Corner on Wednesday, Cherry said the Flames’ regression reminded him of the Colorado Avalanche’s dip in performance the previous season but he believes the decision to fire head coach Bob Hartley was a bit unfair.
“Colorado, two or three years ago, had a great year. They overachieved,” Cherry told host Ron MacLean. “But the next year they were lousy.
“I said about Calgary at the start of the season … I said ‘watch that you don’t pull a Colorado.’ And that’s exactly what happened.
“The goaltenders were lousy and Hartley bites the dust as usual,” Cherry said. “Coach of the year and now he’s the chump of the year. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Cherry believes that Hartley is a quality coach and would be a logical fit with the Ottawa Senators, who fired head coach Dave Cameron at the end of the regular season.
The Flames officially dismissed Hartley Tuesday after Calgary finished fifth in the Pacific Division and the club’s goal differential dropped from plus-25 to minus-29 this season.
Flames president Brian Burke re-iterated Tuesday in an interview on Prime Time Sports that it was Hartley’s entire body of work over a four-year period, and not just this year’s performance, that led to the organization’s decision to make a coaching change.
However, Burke admitted that the team’s style of play and special teams performance contributed to the Flames’ 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,” Burke 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.”