Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley’s contract extension signals that he and new general manager Brad Treliving have decided they can work together.
The multi-year extension announced in Hartley’s third season in Calgary could make him one of the longest-serving head coaches in Flames history. Bob Johnson was behind Calgary’s bench for five seasons from 1982-83 to 1986-87.
Hartley was not Treliving’s hire, but that of former general manager Jay Feaster who was fired Dec. 12, 2012.
Calgary’s president of hockey operations Brian Burke served as interim GM until appointing Treliving his replacement in April.
“I look at it at bit like a marriage,” Treliving told reporters Wednesday at Scotiabank Saddledome. “You go through a dating period and you’re just trying to find out about one another and how things are done and sort of the DNA of the person and how they work and operate.
“I’ve been nothing but impressed with Bob, his work ethic, his energy level, the time he puts in to get this team to the place we all want to get it to. There’s a consistency to him that I admire.”
Calgary hasn’t made the playoffs in five seasons. Hartley guided the NHL club to a 17-14-2 start this season and a 71-79-13 record since he was named the team’s coach May 31, 2012.
His first season as Calgary’s coach was abbreviated because of the NHL lockout in 2012-13.
The Flames flirted with the Pacific Division lead in November, but their current six-game losing streak knocked them down the Western Conference standings to sit tied for eighth at 36 points.
“I firmly believe in the bigger picture,” Treliving said. “Anybody can swim in the lake when the water is calm. It takes leadership, it takes perseverance when the water gets choppy to see who can steer the boat here. I know we’ve got the right guy steering the boat.
“This should send a clear message to our dressing room that Bob is not only the coach for today, but moving forward.”
Calgary’s announcement comes two days after their northern rivals, the Edmonton Oilers, fired head coach Dallas Eakins.
Hartley also wasn’t Burke’s choice as Hartley’s arrival also pre-dated Burke’s on Sept. 5, 2013
So the 54-year-old from Hawksbury, Ont., won over two important men in the organization.
“Brian, Brad, those guys were unbelievable to me because they showed me support from the first minute,” Hartley said. “I said a couple of years ago I felt this was the biggest challenge of my career and I still believe it.
“I love the direction that this organization has taken. We know that we’re moving in the right direction. Our job is to try to fast-forward our progression as quickly as possible so we can be a playoff team, we can win rounds and have a shot at the Stanley Cup.”
Treliving said Hartley’s extension was finalized Wednesday and the GM wouldn’t reveal the length of the contract.
Hartley coached the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup in 2001. He said he had Francois Giguere, who worked in Avs management at that time, serve as his agent and negotiate a new deal with the Flames.
“Because it was during the season, I didn’t want this to be a distraction,” Hartley explained. “I’m a person who believes in doing business the right way.
“I thought it would be good for me because I wouldn’t be part of the negotiations. I could focus on winning hockey games and that’s my job, preparing my team, getting behind the bench, getting on the ice for practice, meeting you guys, I can’t forget this, it’s all part of my daily business.”
The Flames were an exciting team to watch the first two months of the season. Five times they trailed after two periods and pulled out the win.
Defence partners Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie generate offensive pressure from the back end, complemented by rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau’s speed and gifted hands.
Calgary didn’t give up back-to-back losses until their current skid.
“When you look at the micro-picture it’s six losses in a row and six regulation losses. You’re not getting any points,” Treliving acknowledged. “The macro level is there are good things that are being done still.
“These are great learning experiences. You hate like heck to go through them and you stay awake when you’re going through these times, but you need to push through on the other side, you look back and say ‘this is when we were able to take a step.’
“We’re learning how to win in this league and we’re learning it’s very, very difficult to win in this league. It’s a needed and important time we’re going through.”
Calgary hosts the Dallas Stars on Friday before travelling to Vancouver for Saturday’s game against the Canucks.