The Calgary Flames have relieved Hartley of his coaching duties after missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under his tutelage.
Hartley – the 15th head coach in franchise history – was informed of the decision early this morning.
“Today is a tough day,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving, who also announced associate coach Jacques Cloutier would not be returning next season. “I want to thank Bob. He did a lot of good things here. He built a foundation with this organization, and apart from all else, he put his heart and soul into this team. He bled for this team and Bob is a good coach.
“I want to make sure this is very clear; this is my decision. I debated this for a while and in the last couple of days we’ve come to it. We had an owners’ meeting and I made my recommendation and we moved forward.”
Hartley was hired by the Flames in May 2012, a mere month after claiming the Swiss Championship with the ZSC Lions.
He had one year remaining on his contract after receiving a two-year extension in December 2014.
The Flames advanced to the second round of the 2015 playoffs under Hartley’s watch but relapsed and missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
“Any time you go through a situation that a coach is being relieved, there is blood on a lot of hands,” Treliving said. “It starts with myself; there is responsibility with the players and it goes through the organization. But when you go through the process, which I have gone through over the course of the last couple weeks, I just felt Bob had taken this team as far as he can take it.
“Each coach has their own style and their own way of doing things. Bob is able to get a lot out of players, but when we sat back and reviewed the season, I felt for us to move forward as an organization it was time, it was critical that we made this decision now.”
A decision that Treliving said was based on an entire body of work rather than a snap shot.
“I don’t think you make decisions in short periods of time,” he said. “This isn’t a six-game, eight-game situation. Last year, Bob was extended during the middle of an eight-game losing streak. Each day that goes by is another page in the file and, at a particular time, you make a decision once the season is done. That’s what we did.
“I think a lot of Bob. I wanted to go through a thorough evaluation and didn’t want to act on emotion. I think you make the best decisions on clear, hard evidence. You challenge it, you rehash it, and then you maybe make a decision. And once that decision is made it is imperative that you let that person know as quickly as possible, and we did that.”
Hartley became the first Flames coach to win the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year after guiding Calgary to a playoff berth in 2015.
However, the Flames floundered in certain areas of their game this season, specifically puck possession and on special teams. Calgary owned the league’s lease effective penalty kill and the 22nd ranked power play.
“I think in today’s game, you need to hold the puck,” Treliving said. “You need to work like hell to get it and once you’ve got it, you’ve got to hold onto it and play with it. You break down the chances that we give up and you have to have to be able to defend in this league. Special teams, those are critical areas to have any type of success. I don’t want to point and say that Bob didn’t feel any of those were important, he does, but you go through the process and ultimately you come to a decision.”
Overall, the 55-year-old Hartley compiled a regular season record of 134-135-25 with Calgary over four seasons.
“When you go through the process, you ask yourself are we going to maximize the ability from our players as we’re currently constructing,” Treliving said. “This is not letting players off the hook. This is on a lot of other people that need to take responsibility as well, myself included. When you have a day like today, it’s not one person’s undoing.”
Treliving also made it clear that the decision was not based on a potential replacement waiting in the wings.
“Today’s decision was not made upon anybody else sitting on the on-deck circle. Today is about Bob,” stated Treliving. “This isn’t about having a prettier girl at the dance. The process will start today. I’ve got a profile in my mind of what I’m looking for. I’ve got a good idea what can give us success, what can drag success out of our group. But as far as a timetable, we’re going to start the process today. We’re going to be thorough, we’ll be extensive, and we will find the right match.
“This is a very important decision. Today is a difficult day and we’ll deal with today. From this point forward, we’ll start looking for that new person.”
Treliving admitted today’s decision was, without question, the most difficult one has had to make since taking over the GM reins in April 2014.
“You’re dealing with people and with trades and all that stuff and you guys have heard me talk about that. The human element is important,” he said. “This is a good man who cared so those are hard decisions. These are not made by chance; this is not fantasy hockey. You’re dealing with people. Good people. You have to make decisions that you think are right no matter how difficult they are and that’s the job.”
“He wears his heart on his sleeve and cares. It was a tough day. He’s a pro. He enjoyed working here. We talked and shook hands when it was over and he took it as I would have expected.”
Hartley led the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears to a Calder Cup in 1997, before capturing the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. He also coached the Atlanta Thrashers for parts of five seasons.
Flames assistant coach Martin Gelinas, goaltender coach Jordan Sigalet and video coach Jamie Pringle will all remain with the organization.