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‘Get back up in the saddle and get going again’: Sutter shares thoughts on Rebels’ season

Hope to improve discipline and powerplay
The Red Deer Rebels hope to improve their discipline and powerplay ahead of the 2023-24 WHL season. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

In Brent Sutter’s mind, the turning point of the Red Deer Rebels postseason came in Game 4 against the Saskatoon Blades in the second round of the WHL playoffs.

Up 2-0 on the Blades in the second period, the Rebels were given a four-minute powerplay but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. The Blades went on to score four unanswered goals and ultimately four straight games to capture the series.

That didn’t sit well with the Rebels owner and general manager.

“We could have gone up 3-0 in the game yet our first powerplay unit really struggled and they got momentum,” he said.

“We had some system breakdowns and they ended up winning Game 4 and it gave them life. At the end of the day, that’s a really good team we played. They finished nine points ahead of us in the standings and I thought our year was exceptional as far as the regular season goes.”

Sutter also added losing Frantisek Formanek and Jhett Larson to individual suspensions during the Saskatoon series didn’t help the team because restructuring the lines affects the chemistry.

However, overall he thought his team, who won the Central Division with 43 wins, had a successful season despite blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Blades.

“I thought we had a pretty good darn year and stuff like that happens in hockey,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate and it’s disappointing that we let it get away from us but it does happen. Momentum is a big factor and when you’re playing good teams and you give them momentum you have to fight for that back. We just never seemed to have an answer to that.”

Looking ahead to next year the Rebels should bring back the majority of the team and the core of the group including Kalan Lind, Mats Lindgren, Kai Uchacz, and potentially captain Jayden Grubbe.

They’ll also have options between the pipes with Kyle Kelsey, Rhett Stoesser, and Chase Coward all set to potentially return. As well as newcomer Chase Wutzke to the mix.

Sutter explained he expects their goaltending and defence to be great. They also really like the core group who will return next season and hope to see the younger players take a big step.

“It always happens in junior hockey expectations every year get bigger, accountability gets bigger, and responsibility gets bigger as you get older,” he said.

When asked if the Rebels would consider loading up next season like the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Kamloops Blazers did this year, he said he won’t if it means hurting the franchise for years to come.

“I want to have a very competitive team every year and at the right time we have to make certain changes we’ll certainly do that,” he said.

“We’ve never been afraid to do that but we’ve been through all this in 2016 when we hosted the Memorial Cup. It takes five years to recover from it and we didn’t trade away the amount of assets that these teams traded away this year.”

Sutter said number one on the priority list is to be a more disciplined team. The Rebels were the second most penalized team in the league with 987 minutes spent in the sin bin and that carried through the playoffs with 159.

“We can’t be taking the penalties we took this season… It seemed to hit us at different times throughout the regular season and we were able to get through some of it. And then in the playoffs you knew at some point if we didn’t stay disciplined it was going to hit us.”

He also wants to see an improvement in the power play, which was an area that struggled especially in the playoffs.

“The power play isn’t just all about scoring it’s about momentum in games and to me the one thing that disappointed me the most in the whole series was the four-minute powerplay in Game 4.”

“Did [the season] end the way we would have liked to? Absolutely not, we were all disappointed with it… the disappointment is there but you have to get back up in the saddle and get going again.”

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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