Andrew Brunette was a nice blend of experience and innovation, but the Calgary Flames had to cross his name off their list in the search for a new head coach this week.
Brunette was hired by the Nashville Predators, who snuck in and scooped up their former player before anyone even knew they were looking for a new bench boss.
It might seem like a small development, but it makes the Calgary Flames search much more interesting. If they rank NHL experience high, they’re looking at Gerard Gallant, Travis Green or internal candidate Kirk Muller — an associate coach under the since-fired Darryl Sutter.
But new Flames GM Craig Conroy, who’s looking to create a new culture in Calgary, could take a big risk, too.
There are just as many candidates with no NHL head coaching experience on their resumes as those already mentioned, including AHL Calgary Wranglers bench boss Mitch Love and Flames assistant coach Ryan Huska. And externals Alex Tanguay and Marc Savard — two offensively gifted former Flames who are rumoured to be in the mix — are intriguing. Tanguay has been an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings since 2021, and Savard has coached the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires for two seasons.
On the latest 32 Thoughts podcast with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Jeff Marek said he believed Savard has already interviewed. But Friedman suggested the list was long and they need to get through the week to see how much it gets chopped.
“It’s gonna be interesting,” Friedman said. “I think they want to give a long look to their internal people. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I still wonder about Tanguay.
“I hear it’s a big list.”
Conroy said last week he wanted to focus more on offence and creativity. Of all the candidates mentioned, Tanguay and Savard certainly have the resume as players to match. But not all great players are cut out to coach (see Wayne Gretzky), and it’s quite a jump from a couple of seasons as an NHL assistant or major junior bench boss.
Experience, though, wasn’t too high on Conroy’s wish list. He’s seeking the right personality to fit the culture he wants to build.
“I want someone who is a leader. I think as a coach you want someone to have that passion and be a visionary and bring that to the team,” Conroy said. “If we can do that, it doesn’t have to be an experienced coach in the NHL, it can be someone with limited experience (or none) as a head coach at all.
“We’re going to make that decision and go through the process, but you want a guy that can communicate to the players.”