The 2021-22 season was a banner year for the Calgary Flames organization, with the National Hockey League club and its American Hockey League affiliate winning regular-season division titles and then a playoff round . For their efforts, Darryl Sutter (Calgary) and Mitch Love (Stockton) received their league Coach of the Year awards.
Over at The Athletic, Pierre LeBrun wrote earlier this week that Love could soon be on the radar for NHL-level openings.
It was just over 9 years ago when Tampa promoted Jon Cooper to head coach of the AHL, without much fanfare.
Now clubs are hoping to find the next Jon Cooper.
In my latest article, a look at some promising candidates ready to one day become an NHL head coach: https://t.co/QIuac9Rouo
—Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 3, 2022
Love, 37, is in the middle of his first year as Stockton’s head coach. Previously, he spent three seasons as head coach of the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL and seven seasons as assistant coach of the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. He also coached as an assistant with Hockey Canada, winning a pair of medals with the World Junior Team. He had a short playing career, bouncing around minor pro for six seasons. Love earned praise for early comebacks with Stockton, especially as he continued to lose his best players to Calgary and yet he kept his team focused on winning. (And they also continued to win.)
Although not explicitly mentioned in LeBrun’s article, the NHL bench has two experienced head coaches behind Sutter: Kirk Muller and Ryan Huska.
Muller, 56, just completed his first season as an associate coach with the Flames. He has built up a fine resume as a coach since the end of his decorated playing career. He was head coach in Carolina for three seasons (and AHL Milwaukee for a partial season before being promoted to the NHL), assistant (or associate) for 12 seasons in St. Louis and Montreal. Although he hasn’t been a head coach for some time – his last position as bench manager ended in 2014 – Muller has a good eye for tactics and systems, and he has done a good job. ensuring the Flames forwards and power play stay sharp this season. .
Huska, 46, just completed his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Flames. He, too, has built up a coaching resume after a playing career that has never been more decorated than Muller’s. Huska spent four seasons as head coach in Stockton/Adirondack, seven seasons as head coach of the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL and five seasons as an assistant in Kelowna. A blue-line and penalty kill-focused coach for the Flames, Huska has done a good job of providing steady deployments for defensemen this season while maintaining the club’s penalty kill as one of the best in the NHL.
Sutter’s contract would expire after the upcoming 2022-23 season. Huska briefly served as interim coach in 2020-21, replacing Sutter as he followed NHL COVID-19 protocols before joining the team. In the event that Sutter decides to return to the farm after his contract expires, the Flames have two strong suitors in town in the form of Muller and Huska. With another solid season in the AHL, Love could also be a contender.
But with all sorts of NHL openings until then, who knows if Muller, Huska and Love will all stay in the Flames organization for that long.
Looking to improve your fantasy hockey game? DailyFaceoff has the tools you need for daily and season-long fantasy leagues, including a lineup optimizer, daily screenings, and more. Sign up for DailyFaceoff tools here.