In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Insights, I’ll share Flames’ general manager Brad Treliving’s logic for moving Geoff Ward from an interim head coach to the full-time head coach. I’ll also add news about Eric Gustafsson’s decision to test free agency and then share some good news – Flames defenseman Mark Giordano was this past week named the recipient of the NHL’s Mark Messier Leadership Award.
Item One: Treliving Says, You Can’t Just Keep Changing Coaches
A few days before it happened, on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada, the Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman hinted that the Flames were leaning towards retaining the services of interim head coach Geoff Ward. He was right.
Specifically, Friedman stated that when he threw the question at the Flames organization there was a ‘no comment’ from the team. However, he went on to say, “Word is beginning to seep out that it’s trending towards Geoff Ward returning as the head coach of the team for next season.”
The very next day, Ward was named the Flames’ 20th head coach in their franchise history.
Ward had been serving as the team’s interim head coach since November 29, 2019. During his leadership, the Flames had a 25-15-3 regular-season record. Ward also coached the team to a qualifying-round win over the Winnipeg Jets. But then, Calgary was eliminated during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Dallas Stars in six games.
Although with Flames fans, there was some divisiveness about whether Ward should be the new full-time Flames’ coach or not, in the end, part of the logic came down to the fact that consistently changing coaches – over and over again – was not doing the team good in the long run. Instead, Flames’ general manager Brad Treliving decided that the organization needed to maintain more “continuity” with the team’s coaches.
Specifically, when Bill Peters was fired in November after Peters resigned over allegations of racial abuse from former player Akim Aliu, Ward took over as the fourth coach in the short span of only five seasons – but only on an interim basis.
Everything seemed to be going ahead fine under Ward until the Flames lost to the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs. Given what seemed to be the team’s potential, losing to the Stars seemed like it disappointing finish to the season. Perhaps, in retrospect, given the Stars’ success beating the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final, that assessment might need to be reviewed.
Whatever happened, Treliving decided to make Ward the team’s full-time coach rather finding another head coach and going to go process yet again. After the decision, Treliving noted, “We’ve gone through some unforeseen circumstances that have led us to change coaches. I take responsibility.”
Treliving shared his reasons: “When I first got here, the object wasn’t to change coaches on a regular basis. I think you need continuity. I think you need stability. You can’t be churning through coaches on a regular basis. So, obviously, I’m a big believer that stability and continuity is important. Now, you could say I haven’t walked the walk when I’ve talked the talk. But the fact that Geoff’s been here, he knows the group and provides us some continuity and stability, is very important.”
He added, “But first and foremost, I wanted to make sure we had the right fit here. He’s got the ability to become a top, top coach in this league. And that’s what makes me excited.” (‘From “Stability and continuity’: Flames remove the interim tag, name Ward head coach,” Kristen Anderson, Calgary Sun, 15/09/20).
Other Flames’ News
Item One: Eric Gustafsson Will Test Free Agency
Earlier this past week, it was reported that Erik Gustafsson was planning to test free agency as a way to see what his skills might be work on the market next month. Gustafsson had a down 2019-20 season with the Chicago Blackhawks scoring only six goals and 20 assists in 59 games. Although those are decent numbers, they paled when compared to his 2018-19 season when he scored 17 goals and added 43 assists (59 points) in 79 games.
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period tweeted the report.
Apparently the decision comes after the news that there hasn’t been contract talks between the Flames’ organization and Gustafsson. There’s nothing saying that that decision won’t change before free agency opens on Oct. 9, but that’s the news we have right now. The Flames picked up Gustafsson from Chicago prior to the trade deadline.
Item Two: Mark Giordano Named Mark Messier Leadership Award Winner
In some good news, the NHL announced that Flames’ defenseman Mark Giordano was named to be the winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award. The award is presented annually “to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, during the regular season and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game.”
What’s interesting about this award is that, it came into existence in 2006-07, with the winner is chosen by Messier himself.
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