Responsibility for Flames’ collapse not solely on Gulutzan

Ron MacLean, Nick Kypreos, Kelly Hrudey and Elliotte Friedman discuss Brad Treliving's decision to fire head coach Glen Gulutzan in Calgary.

For obvious reasons, Brad Treliving was the one who stood at the podium to deliver, explain and defend the news.

However, those who watched the Calgary Flames this year know it wasn’t the general manager who had coach Glen Gulutzan fired Tuesday.

It was the players. They did this to him.

A room short on emotional investment and long on passengers was responsible for one of the most epic face plants in franchise history, winning five of their final 19 games.

No wonder the coach heaved his stick skyward – herding these cats was futile.

With two months left in the season the Calgary Flames sat in a playoff spot, making it tough for Treliving to fathom he’d be at a podium Tuesday afternoon instead of a playoff game.

“It’s hard to get past how it ended,” said Treliving of the role the team’s collapse had in his decision.

“Glen is a good coach. He’s a wonderful person. We didn’t get our team to the point I felt we needed to. I felt we had a group of players underperforming.”

So, here they are, two years after the 46-year-old player-friendly coach was hired to be the anti-Bob Hartley, and the new-age bench boss is gone and the team’s search is on.

Not that he was willing to share, but Treliving said he has a crystal-clear profile of what he’s looking for in his second hire.

And you can bet the top of his priorities is finding a coach who commands enough respect to ensure the small number of players willing to do what it takes to out-will opponents grows exponentially.

The inmates can no longer run this asylum.

How do you find such a coach?

You look for experience, which Treliving hinted might just be the most important asset he’s looking for now.

“I think having experience in this league is critical,” said Treliving who axed Gulutzan with one year left on his relatively inexpensive contract, while also relieving assistants Paul Jerrard and Dave Cameron of their duties.

“I think knowing the league is a crucial aspect.”

That had always been the criticism of the anti-Gulutzan crowd, suggesting his two years as bench boss in Dallas wasn’t sufficient enough to move this young team forward.

People constantly questioned his personnel decisions, (which, by the way, happens in every city in the league.)

Surely, they also know the battles the coach faced with the lack of offensive depth on the roster that Treliving accepts as part of his shortcomings.

As far as buying into Gultzan’s program, Treliving wouldn’t say his team is hard to coach. He can’t.

But they are.

On paper the Calgary Flames have the ingredients to be in the playoff mix.

On the ice they are a fragile, unpredictable bunch that faltered when the games mattered most, authoring one of the worst home records in the NHL.

Over the most crucial 13-game stretch of the season they won three games, including four must-wins in a row in which they never got within two goals of an opponent.

Several players took advantage of the rope Gulutzan gave them and let the team down because of it.

Now they’re going to get someone they won’t like as much, guaranteed.

“There’s responsibility to bear on a lot of shoulders and our players are not exempt from that,” said Treliving, who inherited (then extended) Hartley before replacing him with Gulutzan.

“Accountability lies with all of us. There is lots of blame to go around. The shortcomings of our season are not solely placed on the three coaches today.”

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Treliving insisted Gulutzan is a good coach, but at the end of the day his team took a giant step backwards this season by any metric.

This move surprised no one.

He weighed the importance he and owners put on continuity with what is best for the club moving forward – finding a new voice to try tapping into the hearts of this bunch is clearly necessary.

The special teams were abysmal, which he said is one of the more direct reflections of coaching than most other aspects of the game. A 29th-ranked power play won’t get anyone very far.

Treliving said this is the first of many off-season moves, but insisted assistant coach Martin Gelinas, goalie coach Jordan Sigalet and video coach Jamie Pringle will remain with the team.

If experience is key, you can bet Treliving will have chats with Dave Tippett (who he worked with for years in Arizona) as well as Darryl Sutter, who is still highly-thought of by Flames brass and owners.

Alain Vigneault knows a thing or two about winning around the league too.

Bill Peters is still employed as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes but has strong ties to Alberta, never mind an out-clause with his current employer some believe prompted the Flames to axe Gulutzan when they did.

Peters, 51, was Canada’s gold-medal-winning coach at the 2016 world championships when Treliving was co-GM.

The list will grow, with various NHL assistant coaches and minor league-hotshots throwing their hats in the ring.

But at the end of the day this team needs a coach who has been there, done that and won’t tolerate the kind of approach several players took that got Gulutzan fired.


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