May 23, 2012
Brent Sutter plays waiting game
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
His Calgary condo is set to be listed and a good portion of his cattle were put out to pasture earlier in the week, leaving Brent Sutter with an afternoon at the Red Deer Rebels office.
Given his WHL team — much like his ranch — is run by a cast of competent characters, his duties at the Centrium on this day are seemingly limited to only slightly more than rearranging his stapler with his paper-clip holder.
OK, perhaps an owner can always find important things to do. The point being that after three tumultuous years with the Calgary Flames, punctuated by a whirlwind trip to the world championship, it appears there’s a relative calm in Brent Sutter’s life.
From Coach Canada to Canadian Idle.
That said, it’s a state the entrepreneur is open to altering should another NHL club see him as a coaching fit.
The phone hasn’t rung yet but if it does, he’s happy to discuss the possibilities … even if it isn’t Edmonton calling.
“I would coach anywhere if it is the right situation,” said Sutter, who left one of the most lucrative NHL coaching gigs in New Jersey in 2009 to be closer to his family. “I’m not limited now like I was three years ago as to where I’d go to coach. My personal situation has changed.”
The return to Alberta was prompted by a desire to spend more time with his daughter, Brooke, who was finishing up her final year of high school in Red Deer. She’s entering her third year of college, son Brandon is a fixture with the Carolina Hurricanes and son Merrick oversees the Rebels, where Brent’s wife, Connie, is in charge of merchandising.
His calving operation is in good hands, as is his family and the junior club they run.
“I’m open to whatever but if nothing happens, I’ll just work here at the Rebels helping (GM/coach) Jesse (Wallin) and working on the management side of it. I’ll work around the ranch. Right now, that’s what I’m making plans to do and if that changes and teams are interested, that’s great too. I’m not making calls. That’s not to say I don’t have interest. I’m just not the personality to go around trying to get a job. I don’t have to coach in the NHL — it’s not something I have to do.”
While his time in Helsinki was widely seen as an audition for the now-vacant Oilers job, Sutter insists he never spoke to Team Canada GM/Oilers boss Kevin Lowe about the possibility while overseas. Nor has he since. That said, it’s a conversation he’d be happy to have as the Oilers gig has to be seen as one of the most exciting coaching opportunities in the loop.
“Would it be intriguing? Sure it would be,” said Sutter, who is clearly on the Oilers’ radar. “No question, it’s a tremendous young team with a great amount of young talent. It just needs to grow and flourish along the way. If there is interest, I’d sit down and talk to Kevin and (GM) Steve (Tambellini), for sure. They know where I’m at.”
Four teams have coaching vacancies, including Montreal, Washington, Edmonton and Calgary. Sutter said one thing he’ll insist on is going to an organization that has a clear direction mapped out.
“I’d want to go somewhere where they either have a chance to win and just need to get over the hump or have a young team that is building towards a championship,” he said.
As for getting over the hump, he had full praise for brother Darryl, who has helped the Kings reach their first final since 1993, giving his former Flames GM a chance at his first Stanley Cup.
“Darryl has always been a real good coach so it’s not surprising to see,” said Brent, who spoke to Darryl before leaving for the worlds late last month.
“L.A. is a great team. Their goaltending is outstanding, but everyone on that team is willing to play the game the right way and defend really well. (Anze) Kopitar and (Dustin) Brown take as much pride in defence as they do scoring, and that’s what you want from your leaders and top players.”
Whether he’ll get a similar shot to mould young leaders anytime soon remains to be seen, which is fine with the coach whose house is in order nonetheless.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada