CALGARY - For a frontrunner, Troy Ward has no illusions heíll be standing in the winnerís circle sometime soon.
Ward, the head coach of the AHL's Abbotsford Heat, is considered the leading candidate to take the reins of the Calgary Flames, but don't tell him he's the odds-on favourite, with 7/4 odds according to online betting site bodog.ca.
ďI wouldnít put any mortgages on that. Or any kind of money,Ē Ward said with a laugh Monday during his end-of-season press conference in Abbotsford.
Granted, there are plenty of other candidates to take over from the now-departed Brent Sutter, but Ward deserves some consideration after guiding the Heat to the second playoff round and a 42-26-8 regular-season record.
His first season as head coach of the Heat was a rousing success, not only in the win-loss columns but also in developing players who were capable of stepping into the Flames roster when needed.
However, he insisted a few days after his club was knocked from Calder Cup contention by the Toronto Marlies that moving into the coaching office in Calgary isnít on the front-burner.
ďNot even really interested (right now), to be honest with you,Ē Ward said. ďIíve got so many booklets going in the back room and so much stuff going on. My No. 1 focus right now is to just bring this to conclusion.Ē
Rest assured, though, once all the end-of-season meetings are done and he can return to his off-season home, Ward would love another crack at coaching in the NHL.
Other than a couple of years spent in charge of discipline for the ECHL, heís been coaching at all levels for the past two decades, including two-plus seasons as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1997-98 through 1999-2000.
ďI canít control it, so I donít tend to worry about too many things I canít control. Thatís just who I am as a person,Ē Ward said. ďIíll stay true to what Iím doing every day and try and work as hard as I can. Iím like any athlete at this level. You do the best you can with what you have, put your best foot forward, and hope at some at some point in time ó whether itís this organization or some other organization out there ó they want to give you an opportunity.
ďIím like any player in the organization. They want to play and wear the ĎCí and I want to do the same thing. I donít ultimately control that, so I hopefully will get my work done this week and get back to Wisconsin and be a dad. Thatís my biggest concern right now, to hold my kids.Ē
Whatever happens in Wardís future, he can take solace of making a name for himself with a strong season in Abbotsford, his first as a head coach in more than a decade, save for a mid-season replacement role six years ago.
ďWhen we set out this year as a coaching staff, the one thing we felt was important was that we bring this franchise further along,Ē Ward said. ďThat group of players had a bond together like no other. They felt very comfortable in their strengths and their deficiencies in that room and they always felt they had support.Ē