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Five Questions: Hartley on Giordano, Flames' success

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley:

Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley has fun joking around about his team giving him heart palpitations and gray hairs this season because of their slow starts and strong finishes in games. He doesn't joke about his expectations.

"We're on a mission here," Hartley told NHL.com.

The Flames' mission is to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They're carving out their path.

Calgary, picked by many to jostle with the Edmonton Oilers between sixth and seventh place in the Pacific Division, is third in the division with 36 points through 28 games entering their game Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

The Flames have three more points than the fourth-place Los Angeles Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions, and four more points than the fifth-place San Jose Sharks.

Hartley talked about the Flames' early-season success, their cardiac ways, and why they have been able to overcome so much to be in the thick of the playoff race with NHL.com over the weekend.

Here are Five Questions with … Bob Hartley:

If there is one thing quite evident with the Flames it's that slow starts have led to strong finishes. Your team already has a League-best six wins in 13 games when trailing after two periods. Your team won only four games when trailing after two periods last season. Why the ability to come back, and what does it say about your team?

"I really believe the character that we have in our locker room makes us believers. I also think that from Christmas on last year, and especially after the Olympic break, we finished real strong and I really believe that we're following in the footsteps that we started last year. We got some new members that brought us some size, some speed, some grit. Those were all elements we wanted to bring to our team. We did it, and every guy has gelled. There is a feeling of belief in the room that No. 1, we never get rattled, and No. 2, we just go. For us as the coaching staff and even for fans, it's easy to see and it's easy to feel, but when you look at what is going on in that room, like Mark Giordano is doing an unbelievable job with the group of veterans that we have. Those guys are leading our young bunch. They're leading by example. They're leading using their experience to give the kids good advice and support. We're a big family right now."

You brought up Giordano. He's having a remarkable season. He might be leading the Norris Trophy race right now. When did this change into an elite defenceman happen for him, and how did it happen for him, because he's sort of come out of nowhere to do this?

Flames captain Mark Giordano is leading his team by example. (Photo: Getty Images)

"After the work stoppage when the [2012-13] season, after a few meetings with management it became clear that we would trade Jarome [Iginla], so I got on the search to really dig in to the locker room to really find who would be the next captain. For me, especially in my first year and being the work stoppage year, those are always unique situations to be in, but it gives you new details because it's not a regular season where you have plenty of time. I sat with Jacques Cloutier and Marty Gelinas and said we really had to use that season to identify who is our No. 1 captain? Do we have captain material, a guy that can really lead the change, help us in this rebuild and more importantly be the flag holder of this franchise, the man in charge, the alpha wolf? The more we were around the locker room, the gym, practice, after a game just around the boys to see who hated to lose, who loved to win, who loved to compete, there was one name that was unanimous in our group. It had to be Gio.

"For me, I have made lots of good moves and bad moves in my coaching career, but I would rank putting Mark Giordano captain of this hockey club probably as the best move of my career."

Has naming Giordano captain in turn fueled his play? Has that vote of confidence allowed his play and his game to take off?

"That's a very good question because we even asked that question amongst our group, our coaching staff. We asked what will it do to Gio? It can go two ways. It could be that the weight of the Saddledome is on his shoulders and he wants to do so much because he's such a pro and he wants to win so bad that he basically loads himself as an 18-wheeler and he's built like a pickup truck, and he crumbles. Or he takes it and runs with it. He's run with it since Day One. For instance, when we send a kid down to the minors, I'll go to him and tell him. Same as when a guy is coming up. He takes care of everyone and it doesn't affect his game. I even think that it makes his game better. You look at the way that he's in the gym, the way that he's always early at the rink -- I've said it jokingly that dealing with Gio is almost boring because he is always at the right place and always says the right things. He's the ultimate pro. He's an unbelievable person."

In turn what do you think he's done for TJ Brodie?

TJ Brodie
Defence  - CGY
Goals: 6 | Assists: 15 | Pts: 21
Shots: 50 | +/-: 20
"I think that's a great partnership. Gio is the force out there. Gio is intense. Gio is emotional. But Gio is always under control. TJ comes in after the work stoppage and right away we saw potential because of his speed. We felt his speed matched real well with the way that we wanted to play. We felt right away, let's invest in this young man and let's see what he's got. We had many veterans on our team and we felt we were not progressing to a point where we were thinking we would get to the playoffs with those guys, so let's invest in the kid. Gio became TJ's shadow. Every time TJ would move he would see Gio's shadow in front of him or around him. They have great chemistry. We laugh sometimes because we do video, and early on this year we got a 2-on-1 and it's Gio and Brods who are on the 2-on-1. Our three forwards are behind them. On many teams you'd see one of them, but that's the way we want them to play."

Are you all surprised by the success you guys have had so far this season?

"No. 1, I love the commitment that we're getting from everyone. I'm having lots of fun with this group because it's an easy group to work with. The kids, the veterans, they all really want to learn. The practices are intense. We're fortunate here. I always wanted to be in a Canadian market and we're in a beautiful growing city, the fans are in love with us, and on top of this we're very privileged people. We're working in the best hockey league in the world.

"I was in Atlanta with a new team and I took that job giving myself the mission that I needed to take that team to the playoffs. I came here to Calgary and on the first day I said, 'This is the biggest challenge of my career.' I'm fortunate that I'm working with great people, in a great organization, and as the messenger of the organization I need to create big expectations. I always say when you don't demand excellence you need to satisfy yourself with mediocrity, and mediocrity doesn't take you to the playoffs in this League. People don't realize on the outside how tough it is to get a team in the playoffs. Sixteen teams get to the playoffs and 14 teams don't, and you look at so many one-goal games, the schedule, that marathon, it is tough. Coaching is about Xs and Os, but at the same time you have to be a salesman. What I'm trying to sell here is to believe we can do it. I understand it's a process. In order to get through the process to get to the playoffs, and in order to win a Stanley Cup, you need to be surrounded by good people. I feel that we're very fortunate over here because we're surrounded by great people and from Day One I've talked everyday about playoffs."

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