The Abbotsford Heat are ticketed for Glens Falls, N.Y. next season, but will Troy Ward be going with them?
The head coach is without a contract for 2014-15 – his original deal, signed prior to his debut as Heat bench boss in 2011-12, was for two years plus an option year, which was picked up by the NHL parent Calgary Flames.
Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke, in his end-of-season press conference, told Calgary media that he’d like to have Ward back at the helm of the AHL affiliate, though Brad Treliving – hired as Calgary’s general manager just two weeks ago – told the Calgary Herald more recently that he’ll need to get acquainted with Ward before making a decision.
Ward’s name has also been bandied about for NHL openings – he was interviewed in 2012 for the Flames head coaching gig that went to Bob Hartley, and Vancouver media has identified him as a potential candidate for the Canucks’ current vacancy.
“If something was to come along that I thought was better, or people thought that I had some unique skill that could benefit them, then I’ll look at that option,” Ward told The News. “Right now, I’m a Heat guy and I’m a Flames guy, and until someone tells me differently, that’s what I plan on doing.
“I’ll just take it one day at a time.”
As for having his name in the mix for the Canucks job, Ward dismissed it as “just speculation.”
“I suppose it’s territorial for me,” he said. “I’m right here in their back yard, and I think we’ve had some success here. It might be just part of the posture of where I live.”
Ward doesn’t know Treliving tremendously well yet, but said he’s pleased with the arrival of the former Phoenix Coyotes assistant GM.
“His M.O. in the business is, he’s a tremendous man,” Ward said. “He’s someone who’s paid his dues and learned under some good people.
“He brings a new set of eyes to the organization, which I think is healthy.”
Ward’s body of work in Abbotsford merits an extension, if not a chance at higher levels of the game.
He amassed a 119-83-26 record over his three head-coaching seasons with the Heat, making the playoffs two of the three years despite a grueling travel schedule which rendered his job arguably the toughest in the AHL. The Heat were on the road for 77 days during the 2013-14 regular season, which limited on-ice practice time.
Ward played a key role in the development of Flames regulars T.J. Brodie, Lance Bouma and Paul Byron. And given more high-calibre young talent to work with this season, he sent the likes of Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, Corban Knight, Tyler Wotherspoon and Joni Ortio on to stints in Calgary.