The last time Bob Hartley coached in the NHL — 2007-08 — the league had a dramatically different landscape.
There was a team in Atlanta (which Hartley coached, and by whom he was fired) and NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan scored 23 goals for the Rangers.
Yeah, different times.
Now it’s five years later and Hartley’s back in North America, this time as the head coach in Calgary.
So…what can the Flames expect?
Hartley’s rep throughout his career is that of a demanding, high-energy, relentless taskmaster…one that’s not afraid to speak his mind.
Here’s an anecdote from Adrian Dater of the Denver Post from Hartley’s time coaching the Colorado Avalanche:
He’s a winner. He’s also, without a doubt, the most on-the-go, Type A guy I’ve ever been around for any length of time. Hartley can never sit still and just relax. He’s always fidgeting, his mind always one step ahead of his mouth. If you ask him a question, you can see him fighting the urge to answer after the first words are out of your mouth, because he already knows what the rest of the sentence will be.
He wasn’t always beloved with the Avs. A lot of guys called him “Bobby Heartless.” He was tough on rookies. Whenever they might screw up at training camp and he became annoyed by it, he might say loudly “I smell chocolate fumes” – meaning, a trip to Hershey might be in the offing.
Sounds like fun!
It might not be pleasant, but Hartley’s style gets results. Specifically last season, when he led an underdog Zurich team to a Swiss League title — Hartley revamped the team’s style of play, logged hours of video analysis, stressed increased levels of fitness/conditioning and had his players throwing themselves around to block shots.
“By the last series, it was like watching an NHL team play,” forward Jeff Tambellini told ESPN. “They were playing hockey so above their comfort zone, but they were winning.”
“Talent-wise, we didn’t have the best team to win by any means,” defenseman Steve McCarthy said. “We played well as a team and [Hartley] outcoached them. He really did.”
It’s quite likely Hartley will come into Calgary and push a similar type of regime change. GM Jay Feaster said the club was looking for a teacher and motivator to implement an uptempo brand of hockey, something needed after the Flames averaged just 2.43 goals per game last season, 24th in the NHL.
But how will the players respond? That’s the big question. Calgary’s not a young team — Miikka Kiprusoff is 35, captain Jarome Iginla is 34, Alex Tanguay is 32, Mike Cammalleri is 30 — and those guys are the core of the squad.
The even bigger question might be how Hartley connects with Iginla. The captain is the heart and soul of the team and the guy Hartley must win over to sell his style of play. Iginla’s seen a lot of head coaches during his time in Calgary — nine, including three Sutters — and it’ll be curious to see what Hartley does in relation to his successors.