Flames reward coach Bob Hartley with new contract, but tough times are still ahead

Adam Proteau
Bob Hartley (Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames announced Wednesday a multi-year contract extension for head coach Bob Hartley and nobody in their right mind was going to argue with the move. The 54-year-old has exceeded all expectations this season, taking a young group near the top of the NHL standings out of the gate. He’s been a crafty tactician with a keen sense of the personalities in his dressing room, and he’s been able to sell his high-energy approach to his players with a virtually 100 percent buy-in rate. He’s earned a new deal.

However, once the warm feelings associated with Hartley’s contract die down, it’s more than a little likely Flames fans will come to know the pace their team has established this season was going to be unsustainable. There’s so much to like about the future in Calgary – the play of captain Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie; their skill and youth at forward (including Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Markus Granlund); the prospects who’ve yet to play an NHL game (Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski) – that it’s easy to look past the problems that still exist with this team.

And they do exist. Forget the Flames’ current six-game losing streak, and look at the advanced stats: they’re 20th in Fenwick; their Corsi-For is 18th overall; and their Corsi-Against is 29th overall. As well, their overall team depth is lacking: if the injury bug that’s already taken a fair bite out of them continues to feast, Calgary simply doesn’t have a deep enough farm system from which to restock the NHL roster.

Despite the losing skid, Flames fans have every right to be stoked for Hartley’s achievement and the good times ahead. But with the high level of competition in their conference – and so many lessons still to be learned for their dynamic youngsters – Calgary is still bound for some stretches that will push Hartley’s best days to the back of people’s minds.

What would it take for Ted Nolan to win coach of the year?

Jared Clinton
nolan

With the Buffalo Sabres eking their way into playoff contention, coach Ted Nolan has a shot, no matter how small it may be, at making this season Jack Adams Trophy worthy.

Traditionally, winners of the yearly award for best coach are those who are the bench boss of teams that finish atop the standings or make the playoffs while exceeding all expectations placed upon them. It’s in that last point that Nolan’s hope at his second Jack Adams becomes a reality. Read more

Replacement coach power rankings: It’s Dan Bylsma, and…

Matt Larkin
Dan Bylsma is the biggest fish in the pond of replacement NHL coaches. (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

The writing was on the wall. It’s since been wiped clean by the custodian.

Goodbye Paul MacLean. Goodbye Dallas Eakins. The Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers were the first teams this season to fire their coaches. Though both have filled their positions – Ottawa with Dave Cameron, Edmonton with the Craig MacTavish/Todd Nelson Sith Lord apprenticeship – axing MacLean and Eakins got the hockey community chattering excitedly about best and biggest names next in line for head coaching gigs.

With that, I present the Replacement Coach Power Rankings. Excluded from the list are any NHL head coaches currently employed but nearing the end of their contracts (i.e. Mike Babcock). That leaves (a) unemployed coaches; (b) Gainfully employed coaches in other leagues (AHL, KHL, etc.); (c) active NHL assistant or associate coaches.

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Oilers took step forward in process, but Eakins a victim of results-oriented business

The Hockey News
Taylor Hall (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Dom Luszczyszyn

With due process, the results will come. For the Edmonton Oilers, the results have been long overdue and Dallas Eakins lost his job on Monday because of it.

The NHL is a results-oriented business – it always has been – so when a team wins three of its last 22 games, someone’s getting fired. But if the goal is long-term success, then the process should be the number one priority. Improve the little things that lead to wins and eventually they will come. Read more

Dallas Eakins fired; Craig MacTavish doubles down on himself

Ryan Kennedy
Craig MacTavish (right) with Scott Howson (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers have fired coach Dallas Eakins, thus ending a relationship that metaphorically resembled a broken man sitting at the end of a dank tavern for most of the year and a half Eakins was in charge. Dumping on the Oilers the past few years has become so easy and ubiquitous that it brings to mind all the photos and documentaries that have sprung up of burned-out houses and urban blight in Detroit: Even the admitted rubbernecking feels sad.

Now, GM Craig MacTavish is stepping behind the bench in an attempt to stabilize the situation. And he should realize before he sets a fire under Edmonton’s players that he himself is covered in kerosene already.

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Keep playing terrible, Arizona: It’s your best hope for the future

Ryan Kennedy
Arizona has been struggling (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Just as the season was dawning, I had a conversation with Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith about expectations. The Canadian Olympian laid out the battle plan for his squad pretty succinctly:

“The past couple of years, our consistency has not been where we want it to be,” Smith said. “Our main focus is everyone knowing their role on the team.”

Taking a peek at the team’s recent results, that has not come to fruition. The Coyotes dropped their eighth straight home game last night, 5-1 to Nashville and are languishing near the bottom of the NHL standings – only Carolina and Edmonton are worse.

Should the Coyotes fire coach Dave Tippett, or make some moves to shake up the roster? Nope. From where I’m sitting, this team should just keep on keepin’ on.

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Report: Mike Babcock on verge of announcing contract extension with Wings; team’s success made choice easy

Adam Proteau
Mike Babcock (Getty Images)

That sound you’re hearing is Red Wings fans exhaling a giant sigh of relief: according to Windsor Star columnist and THN contributor Bob Duff, Detroit coach Mike Babcock is on the verge of agreeing to a multi-year contract extension. Babcock had been the subject of intense speculation he would move on – to the Wings’ division rival Maple Leafs, some said – when his current deal expired at the end of this season, but his links to the team were not easily broken, especially considering how well it has started the 2014-15 campaign.

Although the Wings were beaten at home by Toronto Wednesday night, they still had the Eastern Conference’s best record (17-6-6) and only Anaheim had more points (43) than Detroit’s 40. This, despite a roster whose two best players aren’t far from retirement. This, despite a patchwork defense corps that’s hardly the envy of the NHL. This, despite the hiccups and backsliding that can occur when you’re attempting to assimilate a new generation of young talent into the sport’s top professional league. The Red Wings throw aside more phoney crutches than a fraudulent religious healer’s act and just go out there and win, and when you’re as much a part of that culture as Babcock is, it’s next to impossible to walk away from it. Read more