Soon after the Calgary Flames’ offseason begun, they were left with two important positions empty: general manager and head coach. As of yesterday it looks like we know the next GM of the Flames will be former player and assistant general manager, Craig Conroy. This now leaves just the head coach position vacant. The search for a coach could last quite a bit, but they might have to look far as the Flames have a couple of strong internal candidates. The strongest internal candidate is current head coach of the Calgary Wranglers: Mitch Love.
Who is Mitch Love?
Mitch Love has been around hockey since the start of the century. His playing career started in 2000 as he suited up for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL. He played with the Warriors for two more seasons before being shipped off to Swift Current and then Everett. In the WHL, Love wasn’t that great of a player and his only highlight seems to be his 327 penalty minutes in the 2002–03 season.
His rough junior career led him to be undrafted. After going undrafted, Love never made the NHL and found himself in the AHL where he switched teams yearly. He was nothing more than a fourth-line enforcer in the minors as he had a high of seven points and once again, his penalty minutes were crazy high. He retired in 2011.
After his 12-year playing career was over, Love wasted no time in getting a coaching gig. At the start of the 2011–12 season, Love landed himself the job of assistant coach for his former team, the Everett Silvertips. He stayed with the team and in that position until the 2018–19 season where he became the head coach of the Saskatoon Blades. In his first season as head coach, he showed promise as the Blades made the playoffs, losing in round two to the eventual champions the Prince Albert Raiders. His next and final two seasons as Blades head coach were both impacted by the global pandemic.
In 2021, Mitch Love finally joined the Flames organization as he was hired to be the head coach of the Stockton Heat. His first season went fantastic as the Heat finished second in the AHL standings. To add to that, Love won the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial award as coach of the year. Sadly, Love and the Heat did not become AHL champions, but they did make a run to the semi-finals.
Now comes this past season—the Stockton Heat became the Calgary Wranglers—where the Calgary-based team and Love looked to have an even better season. In the regular season, the Wranglers ended up being first in the AHL earning themselves a first round bye in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Love and the Wranglers did not go as far and lost just recently to the Coachella Valley Firebirds in the Pacific Division finals. However, Love was once again named coach of the year and back-to-back winner of the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial.
The case for Mitch Love to be promoted
Love having strong performing teams in both the WHL and AHL, as well as winning AHL coach of the year the past two seasons already writes an amazing resume for him. The Flames found their GM internally so it would make sense to hire a head coach internally. Love likely has some sort of relationship with Conroy already and knows his view on things.
Going from a coach who seemed to hate to give players chances in Sutter to a coach who loves to hand out chances in Love would be great for the team. Love often gives out reasonable punishment for poor performance and will change up lines if something isn’t clicking. He’s reportedly great at giving players feedback on their game and will make sure it doesn’t slide. He does this in a demanding but non-aggressive fashion which goes over well with his teams. Focusing on the fine details, win or lose for every game is something Love does and is effective at. Love really sparks me as a coach who will let players play their style of game, which is very needed for this Flames team.
Teams need to know a lot about their farm teams and Love behind the bench would give the Flames a huge boost considering he is currently the Wranglers coach. Love will vouch for the players in the minors, giving the ones who deserve it, some playing time in the NHL. Players such as Jakob Pelletier, Matt Coronato, and Dustin Wolf, would likely get more playing time under Love than any other head coach option. Inserting those young guns would be huge for the Flames that have lacked speed, youth, and enthusiasm.
When injuries occur and there potentially needs to be a call-up, Love will have a strong idea of who will fit best in the given situation. Promoting Love might also be the reason the Flames are able to keep players such as Matthew Phillips and Adam Ruzicka who are likely unhappy with the small and inconsistent chances they get in the lineup.
I think Love could easily turn around a guy like Jonathan Huberdeau and let him play to his strengths and style, but also make him come out of his comfort zone in an effective way. He is passionate about winning and will match the intensity of his own players, showing that want. Love himself says he enjoys motivating his players and using that motivation to get the most out of them.
Mitch Love is very likely the best candidate for the Flames’ vacant head coach position. He has a history of success and as well a good understanding of the overall game of hockey. He’s determined to win and pushy towards his players but not enough to irritate them. Loving to give players chances is a new mindset the Flames need and Love would bring that. He motivates his players, allows them to play to their abilities and strengths, while still trying to improve them. Love has the tools and ideas of a potential great NHL coach.
Calgary Flames 2023 Head Coach Candidate Profiles
June 12, 2023 Update: Ryan Huska has been named head coach of the Calgary Flames! Check out Huska’s coaching profile for more information on him.
Here are past individual profiles on all the potential head coaches the Flames should or shouldn’t have considered for the new job: