Taking the fall
Flames fire coach Gilbert after disastrous startPosted: Tuesday December 03, 2002 2:57 PM
Updated: Wednesday December 04, 2002 12:50 AM
DENVER (AP) -- Greg Gilbert was a popular coach, the kind who inspired his players to work harder and had a great relationship with the front office.
Unfortunately for Gilbert, it didn't add up to victories.
The last-place Calgary Flames fired Gilbert and assistant Brad McCrimmon on Tuesday, after winning just one of their past 12 games and enduring one of the worst months in team history.
General manager Craig Button said assistant GM Al MacNeil will serve as interim coach.
"Greg liked the players, and the players liked Greg, but the coordination and what a team needs to do to be successful -- it was slipping," Button said. "Ultimately, that's the coach's responsibility. It's to coordinate the team, make them work in unison and work with purpose. That clearly wasn't happening."
The Flames brought in 19 new players during Gilbert's two years as coach in attempt to end six straight years of missing the playoffs.
Last season, the Flames traded for goalie Roman Turek and forward Rob Niedermayer, and signed bruising forward Craig Berube as a free agent. Calgary then signed free agent forward Martin Gelinas and traded for forwards Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle this year. None of it worked.
The Flames finished with 79 points last season, well out of the playoffs, and have been worse this year.
Calgary was 3-9-1-1 in November and had lost four straight games heading into Tuesday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Flames are in last place in the Northwest Division at 6-13-3-3; only three NHL teams have fewer points.
"We really liked him and wanted to play for him, but the fact is we weren't winning games, and we have to pay for it," Flames defenseman Denis Gauthier said. "We've got to look at ourselves in the mirror and be very disappointed for what happened."
Calgary hasn't been to the conference finals since winning its first Stanley Cup in 1989.
Gilbert, who replaced Don Hay in March 2000, was the Flames' fifth coach in the past eight years and became the second NHL coach to lose his job this season. San Jose fired Daryl Sutter on Sunday.
"It's hard every time, for sure," said forward Jarome Iginla, in his ninth season with the Flames. "It's always a bit of a shock. Even if you see things coming and you know there's going to be changes, it's always a shock."
Gilbert was an assistant coach with the Flames in 2000-01, and played for four teams in 15 NHL seasons.
He was 42-56-17-6 in 2 1/2 seasons with Calgary.
MacNeil, who played for five teams in 10 NHL seasons during the 1960s, is in his 23rd year with the organization. He was director of hockey operations for two years and coached the franchise from 1979-82, going 103-93-44.
MacNeil won the Stanley Cup as Montreal's coach in 1971, his first in the league, and has a 134-108-53 record in four seasons.