Coach, defenceman to reunite

Jim Vandermeer has plenty in common with Brent Sutter. The two were captain and head coach of the 2001 Memorial Cup champion Red Deer Rebels, and both are no-nonsense types who know no bounds regarding the effort required to experience success.

Atlanta Thrashers forward Eric Boulton (36) and Calgary Flames defenceman Jim Vandermeer

Jim Vandermeer has plenty in common with Brent Sutter.

The two were captain and head coach of the 2001 Memorial Cup champion Red Deer Rebels, and both are no-nonsense types who know no bounds regarding the effort required to experience success.

Now they’re on the verge of reconnecting as player and coach, with Sutter expected to be named bench boss of the Calgary Flames today.

“It sounds like it’s going to happen,” Vandermeer, a Flames defenceman, said Monday.

“We’ve definitely had some success together and there’s a handful of guys (including former Rebels standout rearguard Dion Phaneuf) who have played for Brent, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves.”

The Flames, under head coach Mike Keenan, were one of the NHL’s worst defensive teams last season.

Sutter, whose attention to defence has been well-documented, could be just what the doctor ordered for the franchise.

“I remember one year in Red Deer (2000-01) we set a Western League record (which has since been broken) for the fewest goals against,” said Vandermeer, who hoisted the Memorial Cup as the Rebels’ captain.

“He definitely has a structured system and if everyone jumps on board it works really well. And Brent is a guy who can get everyone to jump on board.”

It’s been eight long years since Vandermeer played for Sutter. Perhaps his junior bench boss has changed somewhat?

“Who knows, maybe he has a bit,” said Vandermeer.

“I do know that he’s my type of coach. He keeps it pretty simple. He’s a hard-nosed, hard-working person and he respects players who are like that. I know that we always got along together pretty well.”

Indeed, Vandermeer and Sutter saw eye-to-eye pretty much the whole time the Caroline native was with the Rebels.

They enjoyed a mutual respect, which was evident when Vandermeer was appointed team captain during his final season.

Vandermeer has two years remaining on his contract and he knows that the Flames have to play better defensive hockey is he’s going to experience a lengthy playoff run — and perhaps two — within that time frame.

“The games we lose are the games where we give up more than 15 scoring chances,” he said. “If you’re giving up that many against you’re not giving yourself a very good chance of winning. You have to tighten it up to give yourself the best chance.”

Sutter recently resigned after two years as head coach of the New Jersey Devils, citing a desire to be closer to his family and his WHL franchise.

The Rebels owner and president had one or more years remaining on his NHL contract, meaning Flames GM Darryl Sutter had to gain permission from Devils GM and president Lou Lamoriello before approaching his brother with the Calgary offer. Clearly, permission was granted.

• Vandermeer and New York Islanders forward and Red Deer native Trent Hunter will host the Young Guns charity golf tournament today at Alberta Springs.

The tournament organizers were given 30 full sets of hockey equipment by the NHL Players Association Goals and Dreams Fund. The equipment will be distributed to economically challenged children in Central Alberta.

Also participating in the Young Guns tournament are NHL players and Central Alberta products Curtis Glencross of the Flames, Kris Russell of the Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues goaltender Chris Mason.

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