Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Taking notes: Assessing Ryan Huska’s first season as Flames head coach

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Ryan Huska sleeps with a pen and paper on his bedside desk.

So if the Calgary Flames’ head coach is struck by an thought — a possible line combo or apply drill, a method for shutting down opposing sharpshooters or a set play that would finish an extra time session — within the wee hours, he can jot it down with out crawling out from below the sheets or disturbing the remainder of his family.

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“I’ve a pad beside my mattress and I’m going to attempt to put it away for some time, like not less than a pair days,” Huska stated in an end-of-season interview on Flames Speak on Sportsnet 960 The Fan. “I’m going to observe some hockey, however I’m going to attempt to put that notepad away for a pair days and then you definitely get again into the rink. I feel you discover that taking a pair days away simply to clear your head, it form of reinvigorates you a bit. After which these video games that you simply’re watching, you possibly can choose some various things out of and say, ‘Does that work for us? Might we incorporate that into our sport?’

“Possibly there’s a mixture of sure gamers on a distinct workforce and also you’ll assume, ‘Possibly if I put these two gamers collectively on our workforce, that’s like a (Nazem) Kadri-(Martin) Pospisil factor.’ Possibly we are able to discover that.

“I don’t assume you lose that. It stays with you. I’m simply going to attempt to have a pair days the place I don’t use that pad fairly as a lot.”

It’s, after all, powerful for anybody within the hockey world to take pleasure in any R&R — even when it’s merely a weekend — within the month of April. Huska, who simply accomplished the primary chapter of his NHL head-coaching profession, is fast to remind of that.

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The Flames, after a number of mid-season farewells, missed the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 38-39-5 report.

“It’s the primary go-round for our present employees, and there have been loads of challenges and loads of bumps alongside the way in which that we confronted,” Huska acknowledged. “However there may be loads of disappointment. Since you put loads of effort and time into it and once you don’t see it come to fruition, the targets that you simply arrange for your self and your workforce, it’s disappointing.”

Because the Flames now flip their consideration to 2024-25, adamant this might be an on-the-fly retool and never a bottom-out rebuild, there may be loads of pleasure about what the longer term may maintain for Calgary’s present rookie crop.

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Connor Zary, who produced on the highest point-per-game clip by any Flames freshman since Matthew Tkachuk, may need extra offensive upside than anybody was projecting.

Pospisil has all of the instruments to be one of many NHL’s greatest pests — pace, tenacity and an I-don’t-give-a-hoot-who-hates-me mentality.

Matt Coronato, the youngest of the lot at 21, seemed increasingly comfy on his most up-to-date call-up and may be capable of push his tempo by including some muscle over the summer time months, and rising-star puck-stopper Dustin Wolf completed his end-of-season audition on a four-game win streak earlier than rejoining the AHL’s Wranglers for a Calder Cup push.

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There’s one other identify that must be included on this record — a man whose sport get-up is a swimsuit and sweater vest slightly than skates and shoulder pads.

What is going to 82 nights of behind-the-bench expertise imply for Huska, who climbed the ranks with a status as a very good trainer and robust communicator? It’s price noting he at the moment is the fourth-youngest skipper within the NHL. He turns 49 in July.

“Ryan, as a first-time head coach, I believed he was glorious,” Flames basic supervisor Craig Conroy praised. “His purpose is at all times to enhance and he’s a tireless employee behind the scenes and a fierce competitor. He form of has that persona the place he appears like he’s not going to get upset, however he’s a fierce competitor. No person desires to win greater than him, and I believed he had a fantastic first yr.”

It didn’t begin out all that swell.

There should have been some sleepless nights for Huska throughout a 2-7-1 begin. That beside-the-bed notepad seemingly was getting a exercise.

“Trying again at it now — and I’ll look additional again at it in a number of days and within the weeks arising — however we made a fairly vital change to the type that we performed in our personal zone and I feel I underestimated how lengthy it might take to get a grasp on it,” stated Huska, who spent the earlier 5 winters as an assistant coach with the Flames and was the farm-club boss earlier than that. “After we didn’t have loads of success with it, we actually dug into it as a employees and we came upon what have been an important elements to actually hammer on, so we made certain the gamers understood that. And as soon as they acquired a deal with on it, I feel we acquired a lot better from that time.

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“As a lot as I attempt to keep even-keel, for me as a head coach, there are specific conditions once you’re in a stretch such as you’re 2-7-1, I really feel it. I feel typically, as a first-year coach, that’s most likely pure. However now that I’ve been by that have, I do know I’ll be capable of deal with it higher.

“A variety of the teachings that you’re given or taught alongside the way in which will make you higher down the street. For me, that holds true. I do know it will likely be the identical for our gamers.

“However I like the truth that now there may be actually no query on how we play. There’s no questioning, ‘Ought to I be on this scenario?’ or ‘The place ought to I be on the ice to cowl this man?’ They understand it. Now, it’s nearly executing.”

There isn’t any query, not like this time a yr in the past, who might be behind the bench for the Flames after they return for coaching camp within the fall.

Except a number of nights, and he can rattle them off, Huska was pleased with the work ethic that his squad confirmed throughout a rollercoaster season. As he put it: “I feel that’s the basis that needs to be there, and I feel we noticed that.”

The rookie skipper burdened on locker-cleanout day on the Saddledome that “everyone has to discover a approach to do extra and enhance over the course of the summer time.”

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He actually expects that from himself.

Earlier than lengthy, the notepad might be again on his bedside desk and he might be scribbling concepts that would result in extra wins in October, November and past.

“It’s a must to attempt to discover methods to make your self higher and I feel reflection is a giant a part of that,” Huska stated. “It’s a coach’s duty. We ask gamers to carry themselves accountable after video games. Coaches must do the identical issues.

“No completely different than a participant, for those who’re simply standing nonetheless and never doing something to alter, individuals will go you by and our workforce might be behind and can lag and I gained’t be on this chair for very for much longer. I don’t need any a part of that.

“So I imagine it’s vital that it’s a must to put the time and work in and actually do loads of reflection and be sure to’re discovering other ways to make your self higher and make the workforce higher. That’s so vital as you progress ahead.”

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

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