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Flames promote from within, hire Ryan Huska as head coach

NHL: Calgary Flames at St. Louis Blues

Jan 12, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Calgary Flames right wing Walker Duehr (71) is congratulated by teammates after scoring his first career NHL goal against the St. Louis Blues during the second period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames have promoted from within for their next head coach.

Ryan Huska takes over on Monday after five years as a Flames assistant. The 47-year-old replaces Darryl Sutter, who was fired in May. Calgary has changed head coaches five times in eight years.

The hiring of Huska is new general manager Craig Conroy’s first major move. Huska previously coached Calgary’s AHL affiliate for four seasons and was behind the bench of the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets for seven. The Flames went inside the organization to fill both the GM and head coaching positions.

Conroy was an assistant to Brad Treliving, who didn’t sign an extension with Calgary and was hired as Toronto Maple Leafs GM on May 31, for nine seasons.

Among Huska’s priorities in 2023-24 will be getting more out of Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Flames signed Kadri as a free agent and Huberdeau arrived in a blockbuster trade with the Panthers last summer that saw Matthew Tkachuk go to Florida. Neither Kadri nor Huberdeau, signed by Calgary for a combined 15 years and $133 million, meshed well with Sutter, and their production was well below their career highs.

“I completely lost my swagger this year,” Huberdeau said at the end of the season.

Huska coached the Rockets to a WHL title in 2009. Mikael Backlund, the longest-serving Flame with 14 seasons in Calgary, played for Huska that year in Kelowna. Huska was an assistant coach for Canada’s entries at the world junior hockey championship in both 2011 and 2012. He won three Memorial Cups with the Kamloops Blazers (1992, 1994, 1995) as a player.

The Blackhawks drafted Huska in the third round (76th overall) in 1993. The center played five seasons of minor pro and appeared in one NHL game for Chicago.