Hartley ready for change with Flames
There are not a lot of coaches sitting around with a Stanley Cup on their resume.
Ken Hitchcock was, but then St. Louis snatched him up and the Blues ended with the No. 2 regular season record in the Western Conference. Ditto with Randy Carlyle, who landed in Toronto late last season.
Going back over the last 14 seasons, all of the still-active coaches to win the Cup were employed as either head or as an assistant. With one exception.
That exception was Bob Hartley, who guided Colorado to the 2001 Stanley Cup. After an absence of almost five years since last coaching Atlanta, Hartley was named Calgary's coach last week.
Hartley earned the job after guiding the Zurich Lions to the Swiss League title. The irony is that Hartley thinks that buffing his resume in Europe might have helped him to land the job.
"It was a great experience for me and it didn't take anything away from me, that's for sure," Hartley said from his home outside Montreal when reached by FoxSportsSouth.com via phone late on Monday. "To be honest, I'm sure that it helped at some point. Because when you don't coach, number one, people forget about you and, number two, ‘Can the guy still coach?' You know, this and that.
"There's no better place for a coach than to be behind the bench."
Even winning coaches can have their reputations taken down a notch or two, deservedly or undeservedly. In Hartley's case, his Atlanta teams were hamstrung at times by a lack of goaltending depth, a lack of development by prospects and, at the very end, mortgaging the future for the present – mostly factors outside of his control. He could have had back-to-back playoff qualifiers in 2006 and '07.
But he still carries the perception that he can go to the whip hand perhaps a little too often and that, at times, prospects have not had the easiest time developing under him. In Calgary, he takes over a team loaded with veterans, which should suit his style well. However, a man so firm in his convictions also said that he thinks he has evolved over the last five years.
"For sure," he said. "I think everyone's different — a reporter even. Even if I would be coaching every year, I'd be different for sure. When I was in Atlanta, I was different from when I started to coach. You mature, you learn things, go through different situations. And for me, that's for everyone whether you're a cop, whether you're a lawyer, whether you're a plumber, a hockey coach. When you challenge yourself every day, you can only get better."
One by one, Hartley has begun calling every player on the team. He has spoken to about 15 and left messages for the others. He also has some decisions to make about his coaching staff. He will bring Jacques Cloutier who assisted him at Cornwall in the American Hockey League and also with the Avs and in Zurich. He said he expects to speak to goalie coach Clint Malarchuk, who also worked in Atlanta but not with Hartley, and associate coach Craig Hartsburg in the coming days to decide what roles, if any, they might have with the team.
He said he likes his roster, emphasizing the goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff, who won at least 35 games for the seventh straight season, and the veteran leadership of captain Jarome Iginla as excellent places to start. He added that he will have an open mind with each player.
"Everyone has a clean slate with me," he said. "I'm going there on a mission."
He said he wants Calgary to be his new home, that he was impressed by ownership and that he's looking forward to coaching in a Canadian city for the first time in his NHL career. At one point, he mentioned the names of the people who run the front office and it was jokingly pointed out to him that the Flames are loaded with Americans: general manager Jay Feaster, John Weisbrod, assistant general manager for player personnel; Craig Conroy, special assistant to the general manager; and even Chris Snow, director of video and statistical analysis.
"For me, we're all Calgary Flames," he said. "That's what matters the most. Me, color, language, nationality, I don't mind. As long as we do everything we can in order to win hockey games."