He’s a bright guy, a smart, smart hockey person who makes sure to be extremely well prepared. And he’ll be able to communicate that to those players. They’re hiring a very good man. - Joe Nieuwendyk
The gent who spun the roulette wheel on Glen Gulutzan as an NHL head knock in the first place is confident the fellow now providing a second chance has picked the right man for the job.
“I always said when Glen was let go by Dallas,’’ says former Flames’ star captain and ex-Stars’ GM Joe Nieuwendyk, “that he’d be a far better head coach the next time around.
“I really believed that. I still do.
“In fact, I told Brad (Treliving) as much when he called me on his job search.
“The second time, you’re just better balanced, better able to walk that line between being someone the players like and trust and being the guy paid to make those hard decisions. Pete DeBoers is a good example, I think.
“Coaching is a complex job and it’s all about experience.
“Like I said, the next time around …
“Well, for Glen, that next time around is here.”
Here, next time for Gulutzan, means Calgary. After a lengthy search, he’s the man selected to be entrusted with the keys to Cowtown’s kingdom, replacing 2015 Jack Awards Award winner Bob Hartley as the fuzzy-cheeked Flames endeavour to re-boot their rebuild.
What manner of strategist has the big team in this town hired?
“Well, for starters, a player’s coach,’’ replies Nieuwendyk. “A good communicator with today’s player and you can’t underestimate the importance of that. Coaching is a little more challenging today in terms of understanding your players and relating to them. Moreso than in the past, certainly.
“And that’s a real strength of Glen’s. He’s a bright guy, a smart, smart hockey person who makes sure to be extremely well prepared. And he’ll be able to communicate that to those players.
“They’re hiring a very good man.”
Nieuwendyk was the one to promote Gulutzan from Dallas’ top affiliate, the Texas Stars, to replace Marc Crawford to open the 2011-2012 season.
During his AHL stint, Gulutzan had piloted the team to back-to-back 40-plus win seasons and one trip to the Calder Cup finals.
He lasted two seasons at the helm of the big club, missing the playoffs in both, before hooking up the last three years as an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks.
“I think the great thing for Glen is that they’ve got a good young nucleus in Calgary,’’ says Nieuwendyk, this franchise’s fourth all-time leading scorer. “I believe the key for any coach is getting your players to believe in you and to listen to your message.
“For instance, I’m sure (Mark) Giordano, their leader, is a guy who’s going to love Glen as a coach and will be only too happy to take his message into the room. He’s honest. He’s fair. But he can be firm. And he’ll listen.
“He’ll be a breath of fresh air for those guys.”
Due west, out Vancouver way, Gulutzan’s most recent boss, Willie Desjardins, is also only too happy to pump his now former assistant’s tires.
“They’re getting a good guy, a guy who’s real thorough, extremely good with people,’’ says Desjardins. “He’s very consistent with how he approaches the game and is a hard worker. Lots of great qualities.
“Brad’s a real good hockey man with a wealth of experience. He knew what he was looking for.”
Count another mentor from Gulutzan’s days in Big D, Les Jackson, a former co-GM who now works as director of scouting and player development for the Stars, as a friend and fan.
“As a coach, I see a lot of Willie in him and a lot of Dave Tippett, too,’’ enthuses Jackson. “I’ve worked with Tipp a long time and have total respect for both those guys. Gully possesses a lot of their traits. He has a way about him. He looks younger than a lot of the guys he’s coaching but he somehow manages to connect with all players.
“I think the time he spent here in Dallas was challenging but I’m sure that has better prepared him for what he’s taking on now.
“Look through the history of coaching, guys like (Bill) Belichek - in football, hockey, you name it - they started the way Gully did. It’s very normal, the ups and downs, what he went through. He’ll be fair, honest and all eyes will be on him - but that’s part of the job; comes with the territory.
“When he was with us the guys loved him; they played like they didn’t want to let him down. Which is the most respect you can get as a coach as far as I’m concerned.
“The other thing he’s got going for him is Brad. They know each other well. When you have that situation, the players know it, too, and it only benefits the coach and the manager because there are no cracks in the wall.
“Gully knows he’s going to get the support from up top and that’s always good. That gives you the confidence to be able to do things.”
The Glen Gulutzan epoch opens this September down at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Young managerial architect.
And now, at 44, a young coach, too.
“That was our goal in Dallas years ago, too, ’’ muses Nieuwendyk. “Our difficulty then is that we had to change the old guard first, acquire some picks and start to rebuild that way. We had some issues, ownership changes, things like that.
“But Glen learned a lot during those years, I’m sure.
“He’s always had to fight that tag of looking like your older brother, y’know? When he came to us, he looked like he was, well … your older brother.
“He looks a little more weathered now. It’s a good weathered, though. Comes with experience.
“I think the timing’s good.
“I think he’s a good fit.
“I think he’ll do a great job.”