Identity Politics Could Mean Sayonara For NHL Coaches In Canada
Last week we documented the Fukushima zone known as the NHL’s Loonie League— the seven Canadian clubs wallowing at the bottom of the league’s table. You’d have to think that there’s going to be some firing going on in the coaching ranks as a result.
Some of the teams are losing for reasons of talent— or lack of same. Vancouver Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto are pretty much a reflection of the talent on the roster. Edmonton’s hopes were torpedoed by the injury to wunderkind Connor McDavid. And thus their coaches are likely secure for next year (the Canucks have already invited Wllie Desjardins back for more torture next year).
But in two Canadian cities the flop this year can be attributed to something that’s a sure coach killer: loss of identity. In Calgary, the fightin’ Flames of the last two years— the team that never quit— have been replaced by a squad that gives up ground easier than the Italian Army at El Alamein.
Under Bob Hartley, the team had developed a cohesion and determination that resulted in many third-period comebacks in 2014-15. Even with inspirational captain Mark Giordano out for the season with a torn bicep the Flames won a playoff series and promised more to come in 2015-16.
While there have been some impressive offensive moments from young stars Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan this season, the end result has seen the old Flames identity disappear in bad goaltending and porous team defence. At a -28 goal differential Calgary’s just one goal from the NHL’s worst defensive record.
Worse, internal discipline issues were raised with the young players that begs whether Hartley has their attention as they head toward big contracts this summer."Elvis is dead, the Beatles have split and todayis a new day," Hartley said after benching Gaudreau, Monahan and Lance Bouma. Maybe. Hartley will likely survive to start next season. But if he can’t restore the identity once more, he’ll be old news too.
Meanwhile the Montreal Canadiens seem to have lost their identity in the war between their star defenceman P.K. Subban and head coach Michel Therrien. Never a team that played a wide-open style under Therrien, the Habs nonetheless made the formula work for several years before this one.
But now Subban and some of the other younger players are straining against the coach’s identity ask, demanding a more explosive style. Coupled with the season-long injury woes of goalie Carey Price, the Habs have imploded in identity funk. There has been talk of trading Subban, who plays under the world’s largest microscope in Montreal, to restore order.
But it’s a lot easier to fire the coach in these situations. With no Cups to boast of, Therrien’s as good as gone when the year ends. He may be joined by GM Marc Bergevin on EI.
Whoever runs the tricoleur next year will find rebuilding an identity in Montreal is Job Numero Un. Canadiens fans will not put up with another civil war like the one just winding up at the Centre Bell.
Not sure if you’ve caught these hairy moments from Minnesota high school hockey. Seems that a five-tool player in the land of 10,000 lakesis one who can yield a styling brush. Holy Hansens!
The only question we at IDLM have is how did Gary Bettman not think to get this team playing in his Whirrled Cup w/ Team Bieber and Team Bouillabaisse? Seeing that nations don’t matter anymore in bug events, the theme teams seems like boffo box office going forward under the Commish.
Hall of Fame member Milt Schmidt was never “business at the front/ party at the back” in his career. But the oldest living former NHLer, Milt Schmidt, turned 98 on Saturday. That’s pretty hair-raising in itself. The captain (and later coach/ GM) of the Bruins retired as a player in 1954-55. How old is that? It’s so old that some of Don Cherry’s teaching tips on Coach’s Corner were actually relevant. That’s old.
To no one’s surprise QB Peyton Manning is calling it quits today after an NFL career that featured two Super Bowl wins, five league MVPs and revolutionizing the way the position is played at the NFL level. Unlike the hundreds of fellow players who retire penniless, Manning is well set for the future with investments, ownership in Poppa John’s pizza empire and a media career likely to come.
Less expected was the news that tennis diva Maria “Shriekapova” Sharapova (winner of five majors and 35 titles in all) is likely going to miss significant tennis time as well for a failed drug test.. The synchronicity of the two announcements by high profile (and high-volume) stars would mean a gap left in the advertising world.
“Omaha!…. Who-eee!… Omaha…. Who-eeee!…. Omaha…. Who-eeee!…” Going to be a lot quieter too.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).