December 28th, 2002


Homeward Bound

Alberta Native Darryl Sutter Set To Continue Brother's Work

AP Photo

Sutter Named Coach: The three plus week coaching odyssey comes to an end.
D'Arcy McGrath

Three years ago when the newly hired Flame general manager was looking for his first head coach, jaws dropped when the still warm corpse of Brian Sutter was added to the list.

Brian Sutter was an experienced coach, a man known for getting the most out of his players, and a winner everywhere but Calgary, but to interview a guy that that organization had just fired?


But I guess he was serious. Two and a half years later Craig Button, has announced that Brian's little brother Darryl will be taking over the reigns of the Calgary Flames.

Button finally got his man ... er ... family.

One has to wonder if Brian kept his old notebooks from his tenure in Calgary, surely he'd love to give his sibling a leg up. Truth be known there are very few similarities between the team that Brian Sutter was forced to leave and the edition that Darryl Sutter is ready to take on. In fact the only remaining players from the last Sutter Flames team include Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr and Denis Gauthier. Chris Clark, Oleg Saprykin and Steve Begin played limited roles in their rookie seasons that season.

The hiring brings much light to the tangled coaching odyssey that Flame fans have been forced to endure for the last three and a half weeks. In hiring Sutter the Flames were forced to wade through two different types of complication.

First, Sutter, having recently been disposed by conference rival San Jose, was still under contract by the Sharks through to the end of next season. Taking another NHL job would have nixed the end of that deal, something the Sharks would have loved, but something Sutter no doubt wished to negotiate. This time frame likely gave both parties a meet in the middle conclusion.

Secondly, the hiring of Sutter represents a large break from the Flames recent coach selection plan. The man doesn't come to cheap, and he will and would have other teams interested in him. The Flames last three coaches have all come with lesser tickets, and virtually no demand. Darryl's brother Brian was coaxed out of semi-retirement in rural Alberta. Don Hay was pulled off the scrap heap from a fiery end in Phoenix, and finally Greg Gilbert was given the job with no NHL head coaching experience.

To nab Darryl Sutter the Flames dysfunctional management group was likely forced to jump through some hoops.

"Put it this way, I'm not going into a situation where I can't have a long-term relationship with my GM", Sutter told the Calgary Herald.

A statement that basically points to the fact that he wasn't thrilled to be joining a team that is seemingly pushing it's GM to the side with no clear plan in place beyond this season. 

"What they need there is some stability, that's one of the reasons Edmonton is a good team because they have Kevin (Lowe) and Craig (MacTavish).''

Ah stability, that magic word rarely practiced in Calgary. Where you hire a guy to do a job and then trust that he will and can do said job without pulling the rug out from under him prematurely.

With Sutter at the helm the Flames will likely be forced to get a heck of a lot better in their own zone. They'll play with passion, and they should be on the same page. 

"There's no point in looking back on what's happened with the Flames this year. I wasn't here. I plan on putting a stamp on the team starting today".

The Calgary Flames today, at their best, are a fast skating, hard fore-checking team that isn't a lot of fun to play against - a style and persona that will not be dropped by the incoming coach.

At their worst they're a squad that seems to come out flat far too often, run around in their own zone, and lacks the cohesion and harmony to sustain an offensive attack.

The biggest issue with the Flames however, can be found in the club's best players. Through heightened expectations, pressure or injury none of the club's best players have been consistently their best players this season.

The focus falls on Jarome Iginla, but Craig Conroy, Chris Drury and Roman Turek have all had their extended periods of disappointing hockey.

Brian Sutter had a knack for getting the most out of his most talented players when in Calgary. He drove Theo Fleury to new heights, rejuvenated Phil Housley's career, and found the buttons for Val Bure.

Can Darryl do the same with an equally skilled, but more gritty core of this current edition?

It looks like the arrival of Sutter will add stability on and off the ice, and perhaps go a long way to pumping some of the pride back into a franchise that has long come screaming off the tracks.

And in the nick of time too.  


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