Patience will be a virtue for Flames
Randy Sportak, QMI Agency
|While some players like captain Jarome Iginla and Mikael Backlund are creating a mystery with their lack of commitment to a Flames return, there's no secret the NHL club needs to find a replacement for bench boss Brent Sutter. (Al Charest/QMI Agency)
VANCOUVER - Lack of patience can be a reason to change an NHL head coach.
Sometimes, it’s the only reason.
Think of all the Calgary Flames head coaches since the calendar flipped to 2000 — Brian Sutter, Don Hay, Greg Gilbert, Darryl Sutter, Jim Playfair, Mike Keenan and Brent Sutter, whose term with the club was the longest on that list of bench bosses.
Impatience was a factor a time or two when those men cleared out their office at the Saddledome.
But hiring a coach must be a methodical process, especially for a Flames team staring at such drastically different forks in the road.
The key is to not only find the right bench boss for the job this coming season, but in the future. And let’s be honest, the team a new coach is asked to guide could be very different from Year 1 of a new coach’s contract to the third season, which very few coaches have made it to in the Stampede City.
This is one of Flames GM Jay Feaster’s biggest opportunities to put a new stamp on the floundering squad, which hasn’t been good enough to make the NHL playoffs each of the last three seasons yet not bad enough to be at the bottom of the standings enabling the club to draft a sure-fire star of the future.
The way things are going, though, the latter of those two routes is becoming more and more likely. Two decades of horrible drafting and development have caught up to the Flames in a big way, and the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a sunrise.
That’s one reason Feaster and the rest of the Flames braintrust must take some time before deciding who gets a shiny new whistle.
If the Flames don’t opt for the burn-it-down rebuild and keep the likes of face-of-the-franchise Jarome Iginla and standout goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in the fold — not to mention add more veteran players around them and the rest of the current core — the coach needed for that team has to be the right one for an experienced crew.
However, that veteran team which would start the 2012-13
season (which we have no assurances will start on time or even take place at all at this moment given impending collective bargaining talks) will likely be a drastically different crew in a couple of years.
Iginla, who’ll turn 35 on July 1, has one more season on his contract and could leave as a free agent after that pact expires. If he stays, the captain who has carried this franchise for so long simply won’t be able to do it without much more help. Father Time always wins the battle.
Kiprusoff has two more seasons on his deal and then becomes a free agent. He’ll be 36 in October, so he can’t have that many more seasons of Grade A netminding in him.
Whether those two stars are here or elsewhere at that point, the heavy lifting must belong to others.
Presumably, the others will be younger players, thus the need for a Flames coach who has the skills to handle that kind of team.
There are all kinds of candidates out there for the vacant Flames head coaching position. Names such as Abbotsford Heat coach Troy Ward, Feaster’s close friend Bob Hartley, former Flames who are currently NHL assistants — such as Mike Sullivan — or AHL bosses — Dallas Eakins — will be thrown out there.
The list continues with former NHL coaches such as Craig MacTavish, and you know some current NHL coaches will be available. Dave Tippett could be had if the Coyotes move to Quebec City, while Vancouver Canucks’ Alain Vigneault and San Jose Sharks’ Todd McLellan will be on the hot seat if their teams don’t achieve standout playoff success.
Right now, the Flames head coaching position may not be all that alluring, but they do have plenty of choices.
Making the right one is as important as figuring out the master plan this club needs to move forward — and those two decisions will be linked.