Iggy, Sutter are bosom buddies

Flames GM Darryl Sutter says there is no rift between captain Jarome Iginla and head coach Brent...

Flames GM Darryl Sutter says there is no rift between captain Jarome Iginla and head coach Brent Sutter. (QMI Agency/Jim Wells)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:34 PM ET

Darryl Sutter isn’t sure what all the fuss is about.

Yes, his captain is having a hard time returning to form.

But no, he insists there isn’t a rift between Jarome Iginla and Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter.

In fact, Sutter is convinced brother Brent and Iginla are on exactly the same page.

“Brent and Jarome have an awesome relationship,” said the Flames GM while returning from Abbotsford Saturday. “That’s the best coach/player relationship I’ve seen since I got here.”

It sure didn’t sound that way following Thursday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche, when Brent pounded on the podium while trotting out the ol’ ‘our best players have to be our best players’ line, prompting everyone in Calgary except Mayor Nenshi to chime in with the obvious assumption he was targeting No. 12.

Fact is, Iginla is indeed far from hitting his stride — a development bound to frustrate any coach. Enter GM Darryl Sutter to put a little perspective on things.

“I think as a group of forwards, we’ve played really well,” said Sutter, whose club entered last night’s game against the Washington Capitals tops in the NHL’s Northwest Division. “We’ve done it so far without Jarome not having a great start, but that’s historical for him. Going back to what Jarome said in the summer is that our top players can play better. For us to be a playoff team, it’s not about one player and stats. It’s about what it takes to win.”

And that clearly means finding a way to get the captain more involved, which is what Brent is trying so desperately to do.

“Quite honestly, I think he’s being used differently because the second line is getting lots of time versus other teams’ top lines,” said the GM.

“His minutes are down two or three a game, and that’s good over the long haul. It’s about remembering what and who he is and using it all.”

What and who he was used to revolve around being the league’s top power forward.

While those days appear to be gone, Sutter isn’t ready to buy into talk the 33-year-old winger has become more of a shooter than a mucker.

“I don’t think he’s been any more of a perimeter player, but (Alex) Tanguay has put him in a lot of good places to shoot and score,” Sutter said.

“He’s getting two or three great scoring chances a game — but he’s missing.”

Entering last night’s game, Iginla had a team-high 35 shots but had only two goals and five assists in 10 tilts to show for it.

Ranked fifth in team scoring, some suggest the former 50-goal scorer is the team’s third-best right winger behind Rene Bourque (six goals and three assists) and Brendan Morrison (three goals and six helpers.)

“With the injuries we’ve had, we need everybody, and we’re actually getting something from everybody,” said Sutter.

“Talking to Brent (Friday), we’re 6-4 and we’re not happy — we think we could be 8-2.”

So why all the fuss?

“It’s pretty normal, right? It’s either Kipper or Jarome (people) have to talk about,” Sutter said.

“Hey, Brent’s responsibility is to get the most out of Jarome, and Jarome’s responsibility as captain is to make sure he’s all in.

“The way the league is this year, and even from last year, everybody talks about expectations. Expectations are for your top players to listen to the coach and for the top players to be the hardest workers.”

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ericfrancis


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