Though wins have been hard to come by — just 54 in 130 games — the Bob Hartley era in Calgary has received several positive reviews, largely due to the team’s effort level and lunch-bucket approach.
But is that enough for Hartley to stick around beyond ’14-15, the last of his three-year deal?
No contract extension — no sign of good faith, no tangible show of support — was forthcoming as he enters the final year of his contract. He isn’t President of Hockey Ops Brian Burke’s hand-picked guy. He isn’t incoming GM Brad Treliving’s hand-picked guy. They both inherited him.
So he’s still very much auditioning, like a lot of those in his charge.
“Does it bother me? No. I’m starting with a third boss in two and a half years,” Hartley reasons. “For people who know me, whether I have a minute, a day, a month or a year left on my contact, won’t change my approach.”
The biggest issue facing Hartley, it would seem, is the guy that hired him is now the executive director of community hockey development in Tampa Bay (that’d be Jay Feaster, who was tight with Hartley from their days together with AHL Hershey.) And the apparent vote of confidence from Treliving and Burke upon coming aboard — keeping Hartley and his staff in place — isn’t really a ringing endorsement; with the Flames in the midst of a rebuild and the playoffs unlikely, why bother turfing a coach with just one year left on his deal? No sense in paying someone to not work for you.
Another thing not working in Hartley’s favor is the looming specter of the currently unemployed. Guys like Dan Bylsma (Cup winner, ties to Burke from the U.S. Olympic team); Ron Wilson (eighth all-time in wins, with 648, and ties to Burke from their days in Toronto); Marc Crawford (yet another with Burke ties, from Vancouver) and a slew of coaches currently on the hot seat (Todd McLellan, Randy Carlyle, etc) all could be options moving forward.
As such, it’s clear Hartley’s heading into a “prove it” campaign with the Flames. He acknowledged as much, admitting the team can’t just be content with playing hard — it needs to overachieve.
“The gauge at the NHL level, and I’m a really big believer in this, is you have to be a playoff team,” he explained. “If you’re in this business and your goal is not to win the Stanley Cup, you should go into another line of work — be an insurance salesman or a baker.
“And the last time I looked you can’t win a Stanley Cup if you’re not in the playoffs.”