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GM says coach 'speaking from the heart and he is speaking the truth'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH /

The clasp on Glen Gulutzan's personal Pandora's Box finally flipped open Tuesday night, unleashing his simmering dissatisfaction with his team.

"Pathetic,'' the Calgary Flames' coach said in the wake of a fourth consecutive loss, 5-1 at the Bell Centre.

"No bite-back.

"No kick-back.

"Just accept it, right down."

A day after his uncharacteristic eruption, Gulutzan's boss, GM Brad Treliving, threw his unconditional backing behind the coach.

"One hundred percent,'' he replied. "Glen is speaking from the heart and he is speaking the truth.

"He's usually very even-keeled in his remarks. But he's at a point, too, where something's got to trigger.

"This was not done for show. It was not a motivational tool.

"This was, as I said, from the heart.

"There is a boiling point.

"Sometimes, the truth can be telling."

Video: Glen Gulutzan says the team needs someone to step up

What's obviously sticking in Gulutzan's craw, and digging in - hard - is the knowledge that his group has shown itself capable of far more, not only in terms of results, but in terms of resolve, of resiliency.

He's witnessed it, first-hand.

So what gives right now?

"That's the problem,'' concurs Treliving. "You never want to ask or put someone in a position they're not capable of doing.

"Frustration … I get. But I always think frustration is such a waste. What is frustration? Frustration doesn't get you answers.

"I get mad.

"I get p--ed.

"I get all these sorts of things. But I also think frustration is a waste of time.

"You get to the boiling point when you say 'It's not that we're not capable of doing it. We're just not doing it.'

"That's what gets you mad.

"At some point, we've all got to be men here and say: listen, this has got to change."

Thursday, in Ottawa, is the place to start. But that won't be easy. The Senators are 6-2-1 in January and on the rise.
Not that the Flames, heading into the all-star break, are left much choice.

"At some point,'' said Treliving, "every player wants autonomy, they want it to be 'their' team.

"Well, to whom much is given, much is expected. That's where we're at."

From the GM's vantage point two major issues stand out.

"One: The failure to execute at critical times has gotten us chasing games, but even when we're chasing there are moments when you can still right the ship, and we haven't been able to seize those moments either.

"Two: More in an overall vein, is a lack of response. Sometimes you're whole attitude has to be: 'Enough. We're not going to take it anymore.' There's a fight back, a push back. Whether it be physical, emotion, whatever.


"You gather yourself and decide, individually and collectively, that we're not going to stand for this anymore.

"My biggest takeaway here, my biggest disappointment, is that we haven't shown that kind of fight-back."

Gulutzan has at moments in his first season at the helm, bitten his lip, stepped back, taken a deep breath and gathered himself.

Tuesday, he didn't hold back.

Not that everybody hadn't been warned.

As he prepared to assume control in September, Gulutzan confessed to possessing a long fuse but a tonne of blasting gelatin.

"It's the Irish thing,'' he said back then. "I have an Irish mother with an Irish temper. And she didn't waste any time sorting things out if we got out of line.

"So I'm generally a happy person. I'm good. I don't like to be miserable every day. But if I get mad, I get mad. There's no middle ground. I've heard people say: 'Glen? Oh, good guy. Nice guy. Good communicator. Patient.

"But push him far enough and … snap."

Well, Tuesday - finally - he got mad. Publicly mad. No middle ground.

"You hope,'' said Treliving, "that you don't have to come out publicly and say things. I know Glen and the coaches talks to the players, a lot, behind closed doors.

"But you can meet yourself to death.

"There's a structural side in terms of game-planning and systems. To me, this is different than the beginning of the year. Then, we were trying to find ourselves as a team. To me, it isn't the game plan problem.

"It's that there isn't enough sweat being put behind the game plan to push it over the top."

Dented for 21 goals over those most recent four starts, clinging to the final wild-card spot in the West like a shied cat to the living-room curtain, the Flames are struggling to re-discover their equilibrium.

"We need somebody,'' Gulutzan challenged in Montreal, "to step up."

In truth, they need a long queue of somebodies.

"Right now,'' said Treliving, "we're got guys looking left, then looking right, and saying to themselves: 'Is it going to be him? Is it going to be him?'

"It's gotta be YOU. Take it upon yourself.

"We've gotta look internally, from the manager on down, and say: I'm not going to stand for this anymore. It's the old motherhood statement - however, whatever - we're going to get it done."

Tuesday night, Gulutzan threw down the gauntlet.

"The message here,'' followed up Treliving, his boss, on Wednesday, "is: let's get our heads up.

"Dammit, you can't do anything about last night or two weeks ago. What you can fix is tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

"So let's get going here.

"You go through difficult times and the only way out is to sweat your way out. Work your way out.

"We've got lots of hockey to play. We put ourselves in a position that isn't as good as two weeks ago but we've still got the time to show the character we have here.

"If anybody here is thinking of last rites, that's something we'll deal with. But we've got to pick up our heads and start doing it.

"Not wishing it. Or talking about it. Or worrying about it. Just doing it.

"Well, we're in the doing part of the season now."


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