Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley is proving to be the right coach for this year’s team. As an experienced and positive coach, he has made a big impact on a rebuilding team.
Hartley teaches the young players how to play all zones for every minute they are on the ice. He is patient with the rookies but won’t hesitate to make them healthy scratches on occasion. Hartley also leans on the veterans as he pushes everyone to play to the best of their abilities. He has done a great job of melding young players with veterans surprising the hockey experts who predicted the Flames would be the worst team in the league at this point.
For Hartley, hard work and persistence are keys to his success. He was working at PPG Industries in his native Hawkesbury, Ontario when he was asked to coach the local junior A Hawkesbury Hawks. Hartley led the team to a championship which got him an invitation to coach the Laval Titan of the QMJHL. In his second season in Laval, he won another championship. He moved on to the Cornwall Aces, first as an assistant for one year, and then as head coach for two seasons.
Making his way to the AHL, Hartley took over the Hershey Bears and led the team to the Calder Cup in his first year. In 1998, he joined the NHL and became head coach of the Colorado Avalanche. After losing in the semi-finals two consecutive years, Hartley’s name was etched on the Stanley Cup leading the Avalanche to their second championship and helping Hall of Fame Raymond Bourque win the Cup. Hartley proudly brought the Stanley Cup to Hawkesbury where it all began.
Hartley credits never giving up and working hard as the template for his success. After coaching the Atlanta Thrashers for five years, he landed in Switzerland coaching ZSC Lions to a championship. He joined the Flames last year after the end of the lockout. Now in his second season in Calgary, Hartley set up a hard training camp to get the players to their best shape.
Rookie Sean Monahan stayed with the team after his nine-game tryout because he proved reliable in every zone while adding some offense. Hartley rewards players who work hard regardless of their seniority. After a surprising start, the team has struggled lately but the effort is always there. In a recent game against Toronto, the Flames out shot the opposition 43-22 and dominated most of the game but ran into a hot goalie in Jonathan Bernier and lost 4-2.
Hartley believes in his players and in his system. A remarkable win over the Stanley Cup Champions Blackhawks on November 3 in Chicago where the Flames had not won in many years proves how resilient his team performs every game. The Flames’ high level of competition is slowly being noticed by the opposition.
Let’s look at some of the decisions by Hartley that have benefited the Flames as well as some suggestions to keep improving the team.
Great Moves Made by Hartley
-Emphasizing speed and hard work for an exciting and high-tempo style which has made the Flames among the highest scoring teams.
-Allowing players to be creative with the puck maintaining puck control more than previous Flame teams.
-Integrating rookies Sean Monahan and Sven Baertschi with veteran Jiri Hudler to form a productive line.
-Putting young defenseman T.J. Brodie with team captain Mark Giordano on the first defensive unit until Giordano’s broken ankle injury. Brodie has raised his game another level in the absence of Giordano.
-Forming a good second pairing on the blueline by matching a player such as Kris Russell with a veteran like Dennis Wideman.
-Recalling goaltender Reto Berra from the AHL and see what he can do in the crease. He won his very first start in the NHL by defeating the Stanley Cup Champions in Chicago 3-2 making 42 saves.
What Hartley Can Do
-Bring in Joel Otto, a member of the 1989 championship team who lives in Calgary, to teach the inexperienced centermen in the art of the faceoff draws, a category where the team is currently dead last in the league.
-Trust veterans like Mike Cammalleri, back from injuries, to provide a more balanced attack.
-Tighten up defensively since Calgary finds itself near the bottom of the league in goals against.
-Continued patience as the young players learn on the job.
-Not being afraid to experiment to find a balance between the offense and defense.
Mario now covers the Los Angeles Kings and writes other hockey features. He is an experienced journalist who has covered sports and entertainment in daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and online, including thedigitalbits.com/columns/inside-cinema. He is also the co-creator of The Gaffoos, www.gaffoos.com