Gulutzan sees great promise in the Flames, a ‘team that’s on the cusp’

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Glen Gulutzan knows he’s been given an incredible opportunity. The Calgary Flames may have struggled last year, and they haven’t been a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for a while, but they’ve been building something, and now he gets to be their head coach.

“A really good, young base is what I see here, and then anchored by a defense,” Gulutzan said today at his introductory press conference.

“For me, it’s a team that’s on the cusp.”

A lot of people see the same thing. Up front, the Flames have three talented youngsters in Johnny Gaudreau, 22, Sean Monahan, 21, and Sam Bennett, 19. On the back end, there’s Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton. If the general manager can find a goalie, there’s no reason Calgary shouldn’t challenge for the playoffs next year.

Speaking of the GM, Brad Treliving called Gulutzan a “perfect match” for his roster.

“This is an individual who’s smart, he’s intelligent about the game, tactically, structurally,” said Treliving. “The interpersonal skills is what jumped out to me, his ability to communicate to people, his ability to drive players.”

Gulutzan has already been a head coach in the NHL. He spent two seasons behind the bench in Dallas, from 2011-13, but never made the playoffs. The past three seasons, he’s gained knowledge as an assistant in Vancouver, for one year under John Tortorella (alongside Mike Sullivan), the next two under Willie Desjardins.

How has he changed since his time with the Stars?

“When I was hired in Dallas, I was two years removed from the East Coast League and I’d spent two years in the American Hockey League,” Gulutzan recalled. “I was a young guy, I was 39. It was a great experience. That was my introduction to the NHL. When you’re a head coach, it’s a trial by fire. I could write you a long list of what I know I did well, I could write you a list of what I’d change. At the end of the day, the biggest thing is experience.”

In Calgary, Gulutzan replaces Bob Hartley, the 2014-15 Jack Adams Award winner who was fired because Treliving wanted the Flames, among other things, to have the puck more.

Not surprisingly, the first question Gulutzan got asked today concerned possession.

“Possession has become a popular word,” he said. “For me, what possession is, it’s not always having the puck, because you don’t have it all the time. What we want to be is a real connected group here. When I say connected, we want to be connected in fives in all three zones. We want to defend fast, we are going to defend fast. We’re going to utilize the assets that we have here. In defending fast, you want to get the puck back fast, you want to get it out of your end.”

Sound familiar? It should.

The hope is that the Flames will spend less time in their own end, meaning more time on the attack. Not exactly rocket science, but all the best teams aspire to it.

“There will definitely be a little bit of style change in how we play,” Gulutzan said. “It will lead to an exciting game. It’ll be an exciting, connected team that you’re going to see here. I’m looking forward to it.”