Cote has big shoes to fill as Bentley Generals coach
He’s taking the head coaching reins of the Bentley Generals from Brian Sutter — a Jack Adams Award winner as the top bench boss at the highest level — but Brandin Cote isn’t feeling any heat.
In other words, he welcomes the challenge of taking over from a former (1991) NHL coach of the year.
“Brian is a high-profile guy and I have the utmost respect for him,” Cote said on Wednesday during a press conference focusing on the 2013 Allan Cup tournament to be hosted by the Generals April 15-20 at the Red Deer Arena.
“Brian has done a lot for this organization. He had a great playing career in the NHL and he’s had a great coaching career. But the way I see it . . . I don’t see it as I’m coming in to replace Brian Sutter. I’m not going to try to be Brian Sutter because I’m not.”
In a controversial move that manager Jeff McInnis and president Wes Gyori insisted was necessary for the team to move forward, Sutter was dropped as head coach of the Generals in May and Cote was handed the post.
“I have my own philosophy and my own way of thinking on different things. I’m going to put that in place and I have the utmost faith and belief in my abilities as a coach to get the job done and help prepare these guys night in and night out,” said Cote.
“People from the outside can look at it the way they want, that I have big shoes to fill and that kind of stuff, but I don’t necessarily look at it that way. I’m focused on what I have to do and what our team has to do and I think that with what we have in place here, with the guys we have playing and supporting the organization, that we’ll be just fine.”
This is Cote’s first crack at a head coaching post, but he’s long cherished the notion of running a bench.
“Coaching is something I’ve always wanted to pursue and this a great opportunity for me,” he said.
A native of Swift Current, Cote played five seasons in the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs, including three under current Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. He went on to compete in the American League and the ECHL and also played three seasons overseas — in England, Germany and Italy — before his pro career ended in 2009.
Cote played one season — 2010-11 — with the Generals and is currently completing his four-year education degree at Red Deer College, where he has also served as an assistant coach with the hockey Queens.
“I’ve been preparing for this for the last four years, taking my education and working with the Queens and doing some Hockey Alberta stuff,” he said. “I’ve also had some good, high-level mentors who are coaching or were coaching in the NHL, including Brian. I’m prepared for this challenge. I’m confident in my abilities as a coach and I’m looking forward to coaching this team in such an important year for the Generals.”
The Generals have been one of the premier senior AAA teams in the country for roughly a decade and have one Allan Cup championship on their resume.
“This team is used to being there (Allan Cup tournament), but at the same time I don’t think we’re very satisfied with the results we’ve had, other than in 2009 when the team won the Cup (at Steinbach, Man.),” said Cote. “It’s my job to prepare them and I have a plan in place. I have a great coaching staff who have playing and coaching experience to help me out and I’m excited to get it going.”
Cote is particularly pumped about the new recruits set to join the team for the upcoming Chinook Hockey League season.
“One of the things we wanted to do moving forward was getting a little younger and quicker. I think we’ve addressed those issues. I’m very excited about the group that we have,” he said, without disclosing any names.
“I’m going to have a tough time figuring out who’s going to fit where, but we have a good group of core guys who are still here and want to be here and are excited about the opportunity. Some of the new guys have just finished playing pro and I think people will be impressed by them. We’ll see how it all pans out. I haven’t seen some of these guys play before but that’s what training camp is for and we’ll get that all figured out.”
Among the veterans Cote will lean on are Sean Robertson, Don Morrison, Joe Vandermeer and Curtis Austring.
“Those are the type of guys we still build our team around,” said Cote. “They are the heart and soul of our team and know what it takes to play at this level. They’ll play a big role in getting the new guys to understand the commitment and what it takes to be a successful team in this league and to win the Allan Cup. They’ll be as important as anyone moving forward.”
Cote will also depend upon his coaching staff, consisting of assistants Ryan Tobler and Bob Rutz and goaltending instructor Andy Nowicki, the lone returnee from last season’s staff.
Tobler, a Calgary native, played eight games with the Generals last season after a 13-year pro career that featured a four-game NHL stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2001-02. Saddled with a bad back, the former WHL (Saskatoon, Calgary, Swift Current, Moose Jaw) winger recently decided his playing days are over.
“Ryan is a guy who I know, a real good character guy with a lot of hockey knowledge and experience. He has a good personal relationship with the (players) and he’s going to be a great support for myself,” said Cote.
Rutz is a Red Deer school teacher who has coached in the minor system and Nowicki brings years of experience as a former goaltending coach with the Red Deer Rebels and Los Angeles Kings.
“Bob is a very good communicator. I’ve worked with him on a number of occasions and he’ll be another great addition to our staff,” said Cote. “And Andy has been around the block a time or two and he’s going to be great for our goalies, as usual.
“I’ll lean on him to get the goalies prepared and any advice and suggestions he has I’ll definitely take into account. But again, I have a good support staff, along with Jeff and Wes. Everyone is on board, we’re all going in the same direction and it’s going to be exciting.”