SUN Hockey Pool

Flames are fired up

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Many current Calgary Flames players understand exactly what their next opponent is going through.

The Montreal Canadiens come to Calgary for tomorrow's game at the Saddledome (7 p.m., Sportsnet) with a new look behind the bench after Claude Julien was fired as head coach Saturday.

Habs GM Bob Gainey named himself interim coach and brought in Guy Carbonneau as an associate for the remainder of the season with the intent of passing the reins to the former Canadiens captain next year.

Montreal is suddenly hot again, beating the Dallas Stars at home for their second straight win since the change but the boost doesn't always last long.

"I'd like to see the stat for that, actually -- how many teams win the first (game after a coach is fired)," said Calgary defender Rhett Warrener, who was on the losing side last week as new Islanders coach Brad Shaw won his debut against the Flames in New York.

"It's usually a temporary burst, I've found. At least it was in Florida. I think we won the next game 10-4 or something and we still stunk up the rest of the year."

Warrener was with the Panthers in 1997-98 when coach Doug MacLean was canned 23 games into the season after a 7-12-4 start.

"It was a shock for us because we'd done so well the previous two years," he said.

"It was early in the year and all of a sudden they're making changes. Everyone was stunned. We're going out for practice and they said, 'No, hold on.' Everyone's sitting there in their gear for about an hour and all of a sudden (team president) Bill Torrey walked in and said, 'We just fired Doug MacLean.' It was completely out of left field for all of us."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla and teammate Robyn Regehr were subject to a coaching carousel when Don Hay was replaced in March 2001, by Greg Gilbert, who was displaced by Darryl Sutter in December 2002 after an interim stint by Al MacNeil.

"You take it personal as a player," said Iginla.

"You are partly responsible for what's going on. We weren't winning. We weren't happy with where we were or what was going on as far as wins and losses.

"Both times it was disappointing. You start the year as a group and you have goals. When changes happen, you all feel responsible."

Jason Wiemer, now in his second stint with the Flames, was around when Hay was fired. He was also part of teams in Tampa Bay and Florida that saw coaches let go mid-season.

He can empathize with the Habs players.

"It's always a difficult thing when your coach takes the blame for, ultimately, what the players are doing on the ice," Wiemer said. "It's definitely a reality check and a time to do a bit of a self evaluation."

Veteran Tony Amonte last experienced the in-season switch during the 2000-01 season when Alpo Suhonen was fired two-thirds of the way through with Chicago.

"You kind of change gears. It was pretty extreme," said Amonte.


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