The Recycling Game
Fifteen years ago, Bob Hartley was the hot, young coaching candidate leading a minor pro championship effort, the same kind of position in which Dallas Eakins, Troy Ward, Todd Nelson and Jon Cooper find themselves these days.
A decsde ago, after winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, Hartley was considered among the best in the game, set for a long, long run in the NHL.
So here we are in 2012, and the fact that Hartley is back again after a five-year coaching absence illustrates the finicky way in which coaches are viewed in this sport, when they are considered keys to struggling franchises and when they are considered old news.
So nobody wanted Hartley after his stint in Atlanta in 2007, and this week both the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens were looking to hire him? Guess his success in the Swiss league turned some heads, huh?
A couple of other observations on Hartley joining the Flames:
--He and Flames GM Jay Feaster are very close from their days with the AHL Hershey Bears to the point Feaster's child is named after Hartley. In some ways, its just like the close relationship between Brian Burke and Ron Wilson, something that was used against both men when the team didn't do well. And Burke didn't even hire Wilson. So Feaster can probably look forward to hearing the same accusations of protecting his buddy if there's trouble.
--We talk often of how the Montreal Canadiens aren't the Montreal Canadiens any more, and in the modern NHL, it would be impossible anyway. Still, it's certainly noteworthy when the Habs want somebody as a coach, as they apparently wanted Hartley, and that coach prefers to go elsewhere. A second go-round with Michel Therrien or a gamble with Marc Crawford after his last two postings did not go well seems to be the choice at hand now.
--The suggestion by the hiring of Hartley seems to be that the Flames and Feaster intend to keep pushing forward rather than making personnel decisions that would move the club five steps backwards in order to eventually move forward. In other words, this seems more of an indication there will be no Oilers-like rebuild in Calgary, and that Miika Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla are not about to be moved for future pieces. Again, the state of affairs in Calgary seem reminiscent of the situation in Toronto during the final days of Mats Sundin, a refusal to acknowledge the need for substantial change by a team that isn't good enough to win now.
--The sense this is a pivotal summer for at least five of the seven Canadian teams continued with the Hartley hiring, and now the draft is just around the corner. Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto hold top five picks. Marc Bergevin's remodeling of the Habs continues. Vancouver GM Mike Gillis will meet with Roberto Luongo this week to chat about Luongo's future. The Oilers and Canadiens continue to look for a coach. Only in Winnipeg and Ottawa does the summer ahead not seem likely to contain major change.