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Gelinas feeling comfortable with new regime

Flames assistant is optimistic in early stages of new coaching staff

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- Like everyone else with an area code on planet earth, Martin Gelinas has watched the Survivor reality TV series.

And yes, actually, he can draw personal parallels to one of those fortunate contestants not voted off the island.

"I like Bob," the immensely popular OT goal-scoring hero of the wildly improbable 2004 run is saying of the deposed Bob Hartley. "We're friends. In this game, there are a lot of good people.

"Bob is one of those good people.

"I really enjoyed working with him. I learned a lot.

"I talked to him only three days ago. He's back home, at the cabin, just staying put.

"He did a great job here, I thought. He really got everything out of our players.

"Management just felt the players needed a different voice, a different message. That happens in this business.

"It's never easy, it's never fun, but it happens.

"I'm just grateful to be here; to still be part of it. I love Calgary. This is our home."

On May 3rd, in the wake of a hugely disappointing non-playoff follow-up to an intoxicating 2014-2015 season and only one year after getting dolled up in a tux and accepting the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year, Bob Hartley -- the man with a sweet tooth for Flaming C DQ ice-cream cakes -- was fired after four seasons in the hot seat down at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Associate coach Jacques Cloutier, Hartley's long-time professional alter ego, was also let go.

Surviving, for the moment, at any rate, were Gelinas, goaltending guru Jordan Sigalet and video coach Jamie Pringle.

More often than not, changes to a coaching regime tend to be sweeping, inclusive. In a great many of these types of coup d'etats, everybody gets voted off the island.

And Gelinas had entered the coaching fraternity under Hartley's stewardship.

But when Glen Gulutzan was lured away from his assistant's post in Vancouver to begin a second stint as an NHL head knock, Gelinas, Sigalet and Pringle were all retained on a staff that added former Ottawa boss Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrard, one of Gulutzan's assistants during his tenure in the Lone Star State, first with the AHL Texas Stars and then up in Big D.

So a new direction begins with a very familiar face in place.

"It's been a really good camp so far but different, for sure," acknowledged Gelinas.

"Bob and Glen are different coaches, different people, with different philosophies. For me, as a young coach, it's a great chance to see and learn from someone new.

"Gully believes in making people better. In empowering people. In showing them the positives. He'll correct players, there's no question of him not doing that, but his philosophy is that these guys are here for a reason. Because they're good players. Because they have a skill set.

"Sometimes as coaches, we get a little negative. Instead of pounding away at what they aren't doing well, let's find what they do well and keep pushing that, the positives while working on the negatives."

A stylistic switch is naturally the norm when a head coaching change is made in pro sports. The reality is never quite as simple as good cop/bad cop, old school/new age millennial, hard sell/soft sell, though.

In many cases, ideology doesn't change all that much, but the delivery needs a bit of adjusting.

"There is no 'right' way or 'wrong' way," stresses Gelinas. "You have to see what works in a certain situation, right?

"Bob was a black and white coach. His thing was: This is the way we do it here.

"Gully has a bit of a softer approach. That doesn't mean he's soft, but ... the game is fast. If something happens, maybe there's a reason for that and he'll try to understand the player's side.

"There's a little more dialogue, a little more communication now, I'd say. There's going to be a lot of interaction between Gully and the players.

"It's all about everybody being on the same page, about getting it done together.

"As an assistant coach, you've got to embrace the philosophy of the head coach. That's what I mean about being on the same page.

"You've got to have his back.

"My responsibilities have changed a bit, but that's only natural. Where last year the powerplay was mine, this year there's going to be more systems, more neutral zone, the forecheck."

These are the early days, of course. Anything seems possible in 30 different cities in the encroaching dusk and falling leaves of September.

Still, Gelinas likes the direction it's going.

"To me," he admits, "this is all new. But right now, already, Gully is busy planning. Finding clips. Working on team building. Making preparations for what's ahead.

"We're going to run into some bumps in the road, some tough patches. You can't avoid them; it's a long season.

"But if you're well prepared, you're better able to deal with them.

"Like I said, it's different, for sure, but the goal is the same now, with Gully, as it was when Bob was here: To try and make the Calgary Flames the best team possible.

"That doesn't change.

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