Timing is everything, and now was not the time for Brent Sutter to leave his dual post as GM/head coach of the Red Deer Rebels.
Sutter announced Thursday that he’s removed the interim tag from his two-pronged position and will stay on as the GM/bench boss of his WHL club for the 2013-14 season.
Determined to forge a new identity for his team, the Rebels owner and president felt he couldn’t move away from the bench at this time.
“I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate what we have here since November (when he replaced Jesse Wallin as head coach) and determine the direction we want to go and need to go, not just on the ice but off the ice, too,” said Sutter.
“There needed to be change here and we’ve started implementing it. From talking to Jeff (associate coach Truitt), our front-office staff and even the players during our exit meetings . . . the right thing for me to do was return as head coach.”
Sutter wants more size and grit on his squad and has directed his scouting staff to identify those types of players. In short, he’s hoping to build a team that’s difficult to play against while being a club that’s in the mix on a regular basis.
“The most important thing is your culture. Any coaches, players or other personnel that come into the organization, they come to the culture, the culture doesn’t go to them,” said Sutter. “There’s a certain way we want this team to play and a certain way we want to do things.
“I’m not saying that what was done in the past was wrong, but we needed change. We made change and now we have to follow through on it and it just doesn’t happen overnight. We have some good prospects and we have to develop them the right way and when they’re ready we have to make room for them and we have to have the right team around them for them to progress and the team to progress.”
Meanwhile, Truitt has signed a multi-year deal to remain with the team as an associate coach and Sutter has hired a new assistant coach in Steve O’Rourke, who was formerly an assistant with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL.
O’Rourke has also served as the GM/head coach of the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL and last winter was the head coach of the bantam AAA team at the Okanagan Academy in Penticton, B.C. He played in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans and Moose Jaw Warriors before attending the University of Lethbridge.
“With Steve, we’re adding someone with experience and knowledge. He’s going to be a great fit here for us,” said Sutter. “With my situation, being GM as well as head coach, it’s going to be tough to be on the ice every day (for practice). It can be very taxing, so I’ve surrounded myself with good people. Having Jeff back and adding Steve to our staff is a big bonus. Coaching is going to be a team effort.”
Equipment manager Dave ‘Radar’ Horning, who’s been with the club since 1995, has also inked a multi-year contract extension, and the Rebels have hired Jordan Aube to replace outgoing athletic therapist Terence Robertson. Aube is a former trainer at the University of Manitoba and has also worked with the Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Also returning for the 2013-14 WHL season are strength and conditioning coach Al Parada; goaltending consultant Brent Belecki; video coordinator Craig Kinney; mental performance consultant Derek Robinson; assistant to the GM Davis Claffey; and dressing room attendent Mikel McIver.
“We have a staff here who can provide everything we possibly can for our players for them to succeed and by the same token allow our team to get better,” said Sutter.