With Craig Conroy officially unveiled as the new general manager of the Calgary Flames, the attention now shifts to another major hole to fill in the head coaching position. We’ve already heard quite a few names reportedly in the mix, however one of the most intriguing names is Andrew Brunette. Pat Steinberg all but confirmed that Brunette will be in the running for the role earlier this week.
If the Flames look for an external candidate he should be one of their first names on the list, let’s take a look at why.
Who is Andrew Brunette?
Brunette has an incredibly extensive history around the game of hockey and in particular the NHL. He was selected in the seventh round of the 1993 draft, and played 1110 games in the NHL between 1995 and 2012. After retiring in 2012 he immediately jumped into a management role for the Minnesota Wild
Brunette started off as a special assistant to the general manager for the Wild between 2012 and 2014, before then moving to an assistant coach role with the team. He would spend two years in the role before moving back to his Special Assistant role in 2016, and then eventually to assistant general manager in 2017. The following year he would become the director of player personnel with the Wild.
In 2019 Brunette would move on to an assistant coach role with the Florida Panthers where he would work for two seasons before being promoted to head coach in 2021. In his first ever season as a head coach in 2021-22, Brunette would turn the Panthers into an offensive juggernaut en route to a President’s trophy title.
Unfortunately the Panthers season would end in the second round of the playoffs, and the team would make the surprising decision to let Brunette go despite their regular season success. He quickly found a new role as associate coach on the New Jersey Devils for the 2022-23 season where he helped lead the Devils back to the playoffs.
Brunette has already been named as a candidate for multiple open head coach jobs this summer, so it likely won’t be long before he’s back behind the bench as as a head coach.
The case for Andrew Brunette as head coach
The case for bringing in Andrew Brunette is pretty clear cut, as there’s two obvious reasons the Flames would be interested in hiring him. Below are the two reasons why Brunette would be a great candidate for the job and a coach who can right the ship in Calgary.
Brunette’s focus on offensive hockey
Everyone can agree that the Flames were an incredibly boring team to watch last season. With Darryl Sutter behind the bench the team mainly focused on the defensive side of the puck and playing an incredibly tight checking game. Very rarely, if ever, did we see the Flames open up their offence last season and it led to a painstakingly frustrating year. In the end it was one of the main reasons they failed to make the playoffs.
It appears as though the organization has made note of that and is looking to switch things up when it comes to how the team goes about their play style.
If there’s any coach out there who can improve a team’s offensive output and style, it’s Brunette. Everywhere he goes, a strong offence follows. It’s clear the Flames need to drastically revamp the way they play, and bringing in a coach like Brunette who knows how to implement a successful offence is a big step towards that.
Under Brunette, the 2021–22 Panthers were a force offensively. They of course won the Presidents’ Trophy and it was on the back of their elite offence that got them there. Here’s where the Brunette led Panthers ranked in key offensive metrics in 2021–22 courtesy of naturalstattrick.com.
|Florida Panthers NHL rank (21-22)||1st||1st||5th||2nd||1st|
They were without a doubt the best offensive team in the entire NHL, and bringing in Brunette as head coach was a huge reason for that. The year prior under Joel Quenneville, the Panthers were solid offensively, but Brunette brought them to the next level.
In particular the Panthers were a force around the net and in the middle of the ice, which was a massive issue for the Flames this past season. Under Sutter the team prioritized low-danger outside shots and very rarely had chances in high-danger areas in the middle of the ice. Under Brunette that wouldn’t be the case. Here’s the Panthers’ 5v5 offensive impact in 2021–22 courtesy of HockeyViz.com.
The Panthers in 2021–22 were essentially the polar opposite of the Flames in 2022–23. They created a ton of high-danger chances in the centre of the ice and around the net and their offence was focused on getting to those high-danger areas. If the Flames are looking to replicate a similar style of play that prioritizes high danger chances and goals, Brunette would be a tremendous hire.
The Huberdeau connection
The second reason Brunette would be a great hire is his obvious connection with Jonathan Huberdeau. We all know how disastrous Huberdeau’s 2022–23 season was, but it’s fair to say a large part of that was coaching and how Huberdeau was handled. Simply put, the Flames need to get the best out of Huberdeau to have any chance of making the playoffs going forward.
If there’s one coach out there who knows how to do that, it’s Brunette. Although his time under Brunette lasted just one year, Huberdeau experienced the best season of his entire career with Brunette at the helm. Call him the “Huby whisperer” if you want. Brunette implemented a style that targeted Huberdeau’s elite strengths and ensured that he was placed in a position to succeed. Sutter did the opposite of that which led to Huberdeau’s historic point drop off.
Under Brunette, Huberdeau posted new career-highs in goals, assists, points and power play points. As we all know, Huberdeau finished the season second in the NHL with 115 points and also set the record for the most assists ever for a left winger. Now that’s not to say Huberdeau will reach those heights again if Brunette is brought in, but it’s clear Brunette knows how to get the best out of the Flames’ soon to be highest paid player. The Flames desperately need to unlock his potential and Brunette may just be the guy to do it.
A strong external candidate
There’s bound to be plenty of names floated over the coming weeks as Conroy and the Flames begin their search for a new head coach, but Brunette should be at the top of the list. His past success in an offence-focused system, experience working with Huberdeau, and history as a former player makes him a perfect candidate for the Flames in their current situation.
Calgary Flames 2023 Head Coach Candidate Profiles
Check out individual profiles on all the potential head coaches the Flames should or shouldn’t be considering for the new job:
Gerard Gallant | Mitch Love | Andrew Brunette