Bob Hartley (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
Hartley won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 2015, but couldn't replicate the results this season. With Anaheim firing Bruce Boudreau recently, the table seems perfectly set for 'Gabby' to take over in Calgary.
The Calgary Flames announced that coach Bob Hartley has been let go, paving the way for what seems like an obvious fit: recently canned Anaheim bench boss Bruce Boudreau.
The timing of the move seems too perfect. After all, Calgary's disastrous campaign ended a month ago and Hartley easily could have been dismissed in the days after. But GM Brad Treliving is a smart guy and there was really no rush here. It goes without saying that if St. Louis had lost in the first round again, Ken Hitchcock would have been dumped by the Blues. Alternately, Anaheim's upset loss to Nashville did spur the Ducks to duff Boudreau, so now he becomes an obvious target for the Flames.
As my colleague Matt Larkin has pointed out several times, Boudreau is the perfect coach for a young, offensively gifted team on the rise. He helped the Alex Ovechkin/Nick Backstrom era rise in Washington and kept the Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry party going in Anaheim.
Now look at Calgary's lineup: Johnny Gaudreau, already a top NHL scoring threat. Sean Monahan, potential No. 1 center. Sam Bennett, talented and toolsy forward. Now add in an activated defense corps led by star veteran Mark Giordano and you've got the makings of something.
Of course, Hartley couldn't put that all together. After getting the Flames to the second round of the playoffs on guts and – let's face it, some great puck luck – in 2014-15, the coach couldn't pull the trick off again when the analytics ravens came calling. The great spot goaltending the team received in the playoff year became greatly spotty during the 2015-16 campaign and the house of cards fell apart.
Boudreau can get things going in the right direction for Calgary and with the young forwards about to hit their peak years, his entry time couldn't be better. While 'Gabby' isn't a great possession coach, he did increase the Ducks' Corsi percentage steadily during his tenure in Anaheim.
And while he hasn't even been hired yet, let's get to the fly in the ointment: Boudreau can't get it done in the playoffs. If I'm going to be really heartless here, a Boudreau hire in Calgary will get the Flames back on track and in the playoffs soon. But if Treliving builds his squad right and the Flames begin to look like Stanley Cup contenders, he will likely need another bench boss if he wants Calgary to get to the promised land. I'm being harsh, but the record speaks for itself, especially if Washington ends up winning the Cup this season.
But that's years down the road. In the meantime, Boudreau in Calgary makes perfect sense. If not him, I'd imagine Treliving is considering names such as Travis Green, Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford. He'll also have to fend off competition from Ottawa and Minnesota – according to Senators beat writer Bruce Garrioch, Boudreau has been a popular man lately.
As a quick sidebar, how weird is it that three of the past five Jack Adams Award winners (and six of the past 10) have now been fired from the teams they won the trophy with? Hartley joins Paul MacLean and Dan Bylsma in the recent category, while there is easily a case to be made that Patrick Roy should abdicate the bench in Colorado.
If anything, this sheds light on how the "coach of the year" title is awarded. Is it for the most talented bench boss, or the guy that took what we all thought would be a bad team and made them good, but not great? Hartley may have his hardware from the NHL right now, but it's likely cold comfort now that he has to put it in a cardboard box as he leaves the Saddledome one last time.