Bob Hartley (Getty Images)
The Flames gave head coach Bob Hartley a multi-year contract extension Wednesday. But once the good vibes associated with the deal begin to fade, the stark reality is Calgary still has a bumpy road ahead.
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.