The Calgary Flames have hired Glen Gulutzan to be the team's next head coach.
With Guy Boucher going to Ottawa, and Randy Carlyle to Anaheim, the head coaching positions were starting to thin out in the NHL. Today, Calgary named for Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan as the next bench boss for the Flames.
Gulutzan gets another kick at the can after a failed run in Dallas that saw the team garner just 137 points over 130 games from 2011 through 2013 (which included the lockout-shortened season). The team was a sub-50-percent possession team over those two seasons, and Corsica Hockey has them as a bottom-10 team in terms of expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five. He will have to do better than that in Calgary.
Of course, Gulutzan’s top priority in Calgary should be getting the team driving the play in a more positive manner. I’m sure Calgary fans will correct me, but a lot of the problems I saw with the team was their deployment of players; on a per-game basis, Mikael Backlund played less than 15 seconds more per game than Joe Colborne at even strength, and Dougie Hamilton played nearly three fewer minutes per game than Kris Russell did (pre-trade). In a modern NHL where small edges can make large differences, things like this need to change.
Whether deployments actually do change or not is another matter. Make no mistake, though, with names like Gaudreau, Monahan, Backlund, Bennett, Frolik, Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton, the core of this team is supremely talented. There is no reason why this team should be perennially a poor possession team with the roster they have. That will be the challenge Gulutzan has to overcome; turn a team that was being consistently bombarded by their opposition to one that can play the transition game with the best in the West.
What Gulutzan’s hiring means for fantasy is a completely open-ended question. Does he produce similar results to Bob Hartley, or is he the catalyst for a Mike Sullivan-esque turnaround of the franchise? Surely the Flames don’t have the same talent as the Penguins, but they do have a better blue line, and that’s where the offence starts.
The words that a coach speaks sometimes don’t translate to what occurs on the ice. It is worth noting for now that this is what Gulutzan had to say – somewhat vaguely – with regards to how the Flames have to play:
If this is true, with a decent goaltender in net, the Flames could push to be the last wild card team in the West. They have the personnel, as mentioned above, to play a fast transition game, and as the Stanley Cup Final showed us, this is how hockey is played in the year 2016. If this is the case, the Flames should be better in the plus/minus column for roto leagues.
He also talked about improving special teams, and that penalty kill needs a whole lot of change.
There is a lot of work to be done for the Flames, particularly in net and in their bottom-six forwards. If Gulutzan follows up on his words today, this team should be better next year than it has in recent memory. Whether that actually happens, of course, remains to be seen.
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