Less than 24 hours after being introduced as the man in charge of the Calgary Flames bench, Brent Sutter left his farm near Sylvan Lake early Wednesday morning for his first day on the job.
Sutter aimed his truck towards Calgary and the Saddledome, where he was to meet with a number of Flames players as well as the newly-hired assistant coaching staff of Dave Lowry, Ryan McGill and Jamie McLennan.
“The big thing with me right now is communicating with the players. When the opportunity arises I want to be able to go and see them,” Sutter said late Tuesday, after arriving home from Calgary and a hectic afternoon press conference at the ‘Dome.
“I’m also going to meet with the coaching staff tomorrow so we can start putting a plan together as to how we want to play. We’ll look at some video tapes and also meet with the training staff and the conditioning guys.”
At some point over the next few months, Sutter will either buy or rent a house or condo in Calgary.
“I’ll find something in time. There’s no panic,” he said.
Sutter is also unconcerned about the media and general internet critics who have panned his hiring in Calgary just two weeks after he resigned his head coaching duties with the New Jersey Devils with one or more years remaining on his contract.
And there’s another host of detractors who are questioning the wisdom of Flames general manager Darryl Sutter for bringing another of his brothers on board. Ron and Duane are already employed in the scouting department, but Darryl and Brent will be working closely together.
Therefore, there is some concern among the critics that a sibling rivalry may occur if and when the team falters next season.
“I can clear that up in a hurry. All four of these guys sitting here, I coached them all,” Darryl Sutter said Tuesday, glancing toward his brother and new staff of assistants. “They’re all very strong guys in the locker room and great team players. You can take their last names and turn them all around and put the first names where you want.
“I’m the GM, Brent is the head coach and this is our coaching staff. They are the very best people available. It doesn’t matter what their last names are. We wanted these guys as a group. They’re all very current and progressive and that’s what’s important in today’s game.”
The new head coach insisted that working with his brother carries no risks.
“It’s such a non-issue with us. We’ve been involved in this business long enough to know how it works,” said Brent. “Darryl is the general manager of the team and I’m the head coach, that’s the way it is. I played for Darryl when he was the coach (in Chicago). That was our relationship then and it’s no different now.”
The issue of nepotism and how that would be perceived with the public was also raised during the press conference, but Flames president Ken King insisted that he has the right people in place, regardless of their surname.
“If that was a concern with us we wouldn’t do this,” he said. “We’re not concerned with them having the same last name. What we’re concerned about is who they are as individuals and as people. What’s more important is where they have been, what their expectations are and their understanding of our expectations.”
Darryl Sutter needed permission from Devils president and GM Lou Lamoriello before he could approach his brother with an offer. Lamoriello consented and publicly stated his support for his former coach, who after two years grew weary of being so far removed from his family and farm.
Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek was not quite as understanding, however.
“Yes, it puts a different light on things,” Vanderbeek told the New Jersey Star Ledger after Sutter was named as the Flames head coach. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
“All of the conversations we had throughout the year with Brent had been regarding his family. Certainly I was surprised when the prospect of coaching another team raised its head one month after leaving this team. It’s upsetting.”
• Sutter insisted he will be focusing strictly on his Flames duties once the season starts.
For now, the Red Deer Rebels president/owner is also assisting the head coach of his WHL team, Jesse Wallin, with preparations for next Tuesday’s Canadian Hockey League import draft.
“Jesse has been working on the European draft and I’ve been talking to some agents regarding that,” said Sutter. “That’s the next thing for the Rebels . . . getting the import draft looked after.”
• Joel Lowry, the son of Flames assistant coach Dave Lowry and a forward listed by the Rebels, plans to skate with the Victoria Grizzlies of the junior A BCHL during the upcoming season.
The 18-year-old was a member of the Pacific Region midget AAA champion Calgary Buffaloes the last two years.