The boss approves

The players and coaching staff have received a passing grade from the owner, who admittedly wouldn’t have been so generous with his marks six to eights weeks ago.

The players and coaching staff have received a passing grade from the owner, who admittedly wouldn’t have been so generous with his marks six to eights weeks ago.

With his Calgary Flames on a hiatus while the NHL’s best competes in Vancouver, Red Deer Rebels proprietor Brent Sutter took in Friday’s Western Hockey League contest at the Centrium, where the locals bested the Prince George Cougars 3-1.

In Sutter’s opinion, the Rebels have come around nicely since the last time he viewed the club, which was just prior to Christmas.

“The biggest thing to me is the guys are playing a real good team game,” the Flames head coach said Sunday. “You notice that, and also the skill level. The team has some good, skilled players and the defence is playing and moving the puck a lot better. You can see that the team is playing with more confidence.”

The Rebels are not only close to nailing down a Western Hockey League playoff berth, the club is a mere two points removed from fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.

For that, Sutter tips his hat to head man Jesse Wallin and assistants Dallas Gaume and Bryce Thoma, as well as goaltender mentor Andy Nowicki.

“No question, the coaches have done a very good job. Jesse and I had a talk earlier in the season when the team had some obvious inconsistencies in their game. They would win two, then lose two, win three, lose three . . . you’re never going to get into the playoffs that way.

“But they’ve since found the consistency in their game and I give credit to Jesse and the coaching staff for staying with it and working with the players to get more out of their game. They’ve become a team that every night is accountable and responsible for playing a certain way.”

Sutter admitted that he hasn’t watched the Rebels via WHL webcam feeds with the same frequency this winter as was the case the past two years when he served as head coach of the New Jersey Devils and lived in a different time zone.

Of course, he’s also had his hands full with a Flames team that struggled big-time for several weeks just prior to the Olympic break. Sutter and his players — minus Olympians Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Hagman — will return to the ice Wednesday afternoon to begin preparations for the resumption of the NHL schedule next week.

“I feel good about the way we were playing heading into the break,” said Sutter, crediting the modest turnaround — the Flames are 3-2-1 in their last six outings — to the recent trades which brought in five forwards and defenceman Ian White in return for four players, the key skaters being Dion Phaneuf and Olli Jokinen.

“It’s certainly been one of those years with lots of ups and downs,” said Sutter. “There were times when we thought we had turned the corner and then times when it looked like we were starting over.

“I probably have learned more this season than I ever have as a coach. You find out a lot about individuals and find out lots about the team and yourself as a coach, not only through the good times, but the difficult times, and we’ve certainly had our share this year. But we wanted to go into the break on a positive note and if the playoffs start today we’d be in.

“I think the changes that were made were changes that had to be made. We have more depth up front and it’s not a secret we’ve had trouble scoring goals.”

At the same time, the Flames are among the league-leaders in goals against.

“But it’s a tough league to play in when you have to win every game 1-0 and 2-1. It starts to wear on everybody,” said Sutter, who’s convinced that his team is better offensively with the additions of forwards Hagman, Ales Kotalik, Christopher Higgins and Matt Stajan.

“These trades have added more skill, more size and more speed and certainly intelligence to our front end. I truly felt that something had to be done.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Energy Minister Sonya Savage speaks during an event to mark the start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. A committee that is supposed to consult Albertans on coal development in the Rocky Mountains won't be able to ask questions about water or land use. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta coal consultation terms of reference rule out land use, water concerns

Alberta coal consultation terms of reference rule out land use, water concerns

Brittany Lausen, RDC Students’ Association president. (Advocate file photo).
RDC Students’ Association takes aim at ‘period poverty’ in Red Deer

Vulnerable clients of several non-profits can access free hygiene products

A voter is shown at a Whitehorse polling station during the Yukon election on Monday April 12, 2021. An official count has confirmed a tie in the Yukon election, pushing the process to the next step of a judicial recount. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Kelly
Official count confirms tie in Yukon election, application filed for judicial recount

WHITEHORSE — An official count has confirmed a tie in the Yukon… Continue reading

Lieutenant Commander Nicole Robichaud welcomes members of the Liberian Coast Guard aboard the HMCS Moncton for training with Royal Canadian Navy off the coast of Monrovia, Liberia, Africa. (Contributed photo by Corp. Ryan Moulton)
Red Deer-raised woman finds her sea legs as commander in the Royal Canadian Navy

Cdr. Nicole Robichaud started out as a local sea cadet

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Britain’s Prince Charles, with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visits the gardens of Marlborough House, London, Thursday April 15, 2021, to look at the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace, following the death of Prince Philip. (Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via AP)
Princes William, Harry won’t walk side-by-side at funeral

LONDON — Prince William and Prince Harry won’t walk side-by-side Saturday as… Continue reading

Tilray products such as capsules, oils, and dried marijuana are displayed at their head office in Nanaimo, B.C., on November 29, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Vote by Tilray shareholders on Aphria merger deal delayed until April 30

NANAIMO, B.C. — A vote by Tilray Inc. shareholders on the cannabis… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adjusts his mask as Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson answers a reporter's question during an announcement on the government's updated climate change plan in the Dominion Arboretum in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Wilkinson urges opposition leaders to stop stalling net-zero carbon emissions bill

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is urging opposition leaders to end… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Opinion: Biden’s words have no meaning

“If they go, we’ll all have to go. That’s the reality of… Continue reading

Shadow pandemic: Domestic violence has risen worldwide

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a devastating mark on communities across the… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: MLAs expected to toe the party line

I am writing this letter to express my disappointment with my MLA… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green, top centre, prepares to begin practice during the NHL hockey team's training camp in Vancouver, on Friday, January 8, 2021. Media have been barred from the Vancouver Canucks first practice since a COVID-19 outbreak swept through the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks’ next game postponed, delaying return from COVID-19 outbreak

Vancouver Canucks’ next game postponed, delaying return from COVID-19 outbreak

Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers (27) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with teammate Mathieu Perreault (85) as Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) skates past during first-period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, April 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ehlers scores two as Jets chase Campbell early, down Maple Leafs

Ehlers scores two as Jets chase Campbell early, down Maple Leafs

Most Read