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Huska’s Hiring May Lead To New Assistants On Flames Bench



The lists, it seems, never end for the Calgary Flames.

First it was paring down the lengthy set of names to narrow in on the next Flames GM. Enter Craig Conroy.

Then Conroy was tasked with the same process to find the new head coach, interviewing at least 15 people by phone, zoom or in person before a quartet of finalists and ultimately hiring Ryan Huska.

Now Huska will undergo a similar tactic to round out his bench for the coming season, which means current associate coach Kirk Muller and assistant Cail MacLean will have to interview along with others to make sure the best blend is achieved for the ultimate success.

Jordan Sigalet is the sr. goaltending coach, with Jason Labarbara under his tutelage. And Jamie Pringle is an assistant coach in charge of video.

“We’re looking at internal, external, all candidates,” Huska said Monday of his No. 1 task.

“I have a lot of trust and belief in the guys we have here, but as Connie said, we want to make sure we get the best people that will help us put the best team on the ice.

“Ideally you bring people in that provide balance to myself and the rest of the staff. So you want different experiences, you want people that have been around different people, different ideas. That’s something that’s important.”

Different is a key word there.

Muller is a veteran coach who has been interviewed elsewhere but isn’t believed to have been among the four finalists. MacLean has been an NHL assistant for two seasons with the Calgary Flames after serving as their head coach for six seasons in Stockton and Abbotsford with the AHL affiliate as assistant then head coach. A pair of head coaching duties with the ECHL’s Adirondack are wedged in there, too.

But you should expect at least one new name to join the ranks. And a gambler would be wise to lay some money on Mitch Love — who was one of the four finalists.

Of course, that’s if Love wants the job after earning back-to-back coach-of-the-year nods in the American Hockey League guiding Flames prospects with the Stockton Heat and Calgary Wranglers. Conroy suggested Monday that he believed he needed at least a little NHL seasoning before making the leap to head coach in the world’s best league.

But given their track record of promoting the likes of Huska and MacLean into assistant roles — and now Huska to head coach — Love may accept that new challenge. Even if it means his ascent to the top spot behind the bench comes with another franchise.

“Even I told Mitch, you know, I’ll be honest that I think he needs a little time in the NHL,” Conroy said. “E as a player when I went from American League to the NHL, there is a step and there’s a learning curve, and to just get thrust into (an NHL coaching job) without kind of going through that, it’s not fair to him.

“I know he believes 100 percent he could do it, and I’m not saying that he couldn’t, but for me being a first time GM in the league, to have someone that’s kind of went through the steps — the way I kind of envisioned in my mind — was probably the difference in making the hire. And I felt like Ryan was 100 percent the guy for me.”

One area of focus this offseason is a more dynamic offence, and more new blood behind the bench might be in order to help that progress. Muller was in charge of a powerplay that was shockingly disappointing this season. Someone like Alex Tanguay — rumoured to be someone of interest in the head coaching long list — is a name to watch. Same goes for Marc Savard, who is a rising star in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires the past two seasons after a year as an assistant with the St. Louis Blues.

Savard has said previously he’s only interested in head coaching opportunities. Can the Calgary Flames convince him otherwise? Would Tanguay leave his current post with the Detroit Red Wings to join Conroy, his old teammate with the Flames?

Stay tuned over the coming weeks for Huska’s first move.

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