Calgary might be the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season — well, the biggest one not named the Islanders — and with that disappointing start has come all the requisite grumbling.
Which includes gripes directed at the head coach.
Though he’s only 16 games into his tenure as Calgary’s bench boss, Glen Gulutzan is already hearing calls for his job, per the Calgary Sun. The Flames are 5-10-1 and just one point out of the Pacific Division basement — a far cry from where many expected them to be — but according to one of the club’s best young players, it’s waaay too early to talk about sacking the coach.
“For people to say that is pretty ridiculous,” Sean Monahan told the Sun. “It’s a process and sometimes things aren’t going the way you want them to. I think it’s just a matter of the full 20 guys buying in. We’ve got a lot of skill and you look at our team on paper we’re a good team.
“Right now we’re not showing it on the ice.”
The problems facing Gulutzan are twofold.
One, he was handed the keys to what was supposed to be a dynamic team. Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau were already there, as was a defense led by Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie. And GM Brad Treliving seemingly took care of last year’s problem spots — completely revamping the crease with Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, then adding some veteran goalscoring in Troy Brouwer — which, as Monahan said, made the Flames look pretty talented on paper.
Which brings us to problem No. 2.
Hindsight being 20/20, Treliving was given a pretty daunting task — revamping Calgary’s entire approach. In firing Bob Hartley, Treliving all but said he didn’t Calgary’s style of play, and that profound changes needed to happen.
“In today’s game, you need to have the puck. You’ve gotta work like hell to get it. And when you get it, you gotta hold on to it, you gotta play with it,” he said back in May. “Think how you defend in the league, too, is an area we look at. … You really break down the chances that we give up… you’ve gotta be able to defend in this league.”
For all their defensive and possession deficiencies under Hartley, the Flames’ offensive talent sure did shine. Everyone will point to Gaudreau and Monahan, but considersome of the other guys that had career years under Hartley: Giordano (21 goals and 56 points last year), Mikael Backlund (12 goals and 47 points) and the now-departed Joe Colborne, who scored 44 points after never having cracked 30.
So 16 games into the Gulutzan era, maybe the struggles shouldn’t be that surprising. This is a team trying to adapt to a whole new system.
Of course, that doesn’t take any of the pressure off the coach.