Abbotsford Heat bench boss Troy Ward is a candidate for the Calgary Flames’ vacant head coaching position, according to Flames general manager Jay Feaster.
“One of the people we would speak with is Troy Ward,” Feaster told a press conference in Calgary on Thursday afternoon, as he announced that the Flames and Brent Sutter had mutually agreed to part ways after three seasons.
Ward, when reached for comment, wasn’t getting ahead of himself. He often speaks about the importance of sticking to the process, and he strayed little from that one-day-at-a-time philosophy.
“My first response is, my feelings towards Brent and his family,” Ward said. “This guy’s been a mentor to me for the last two years of my life, and a guy I respect and admire.
“I really appreciate Jay’s thoughts towards our staff,” he added. “But at the current time, I’m employed to do a job down here, and that’s where my life is at and that’s where my focus is at.”
With two games to go in the AHL regular season, Ward has guided the Heat to a franchise-record 40 wins. Abbotsford has clinched a playoff berth, and is closing in on securing the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Along the way, Ward has helped the Heat weather a gauntlet of injuries and NHL recalls over the second half of the season. He brings a unique nurturing approach to the job, and has played a mentoring role as the likes of Krys Kolanos and Akim Aliu have resurrected their careers.
Ward acknowledged his ultimate goal is to be a head coach in the NHL.
“Once I figured out my skates weren’t going to work as well as most NHL guys and my hands weren’t going to work as well as those guys, I pretty much set my head on wanting to coach at that level,” said Ward, whose playing career topped out at the NCAA Division 3 level, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
“That’s the ultimate dream, and it’s why you do what you do.”
In Thursday’s Calgary Herald, before news of Sutter’s departure broke, Ward was touted as being “destined for an NHL job.”
• The Heat host the Toronto Marlies on Friday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.