SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter practises patience

Flames GM-coach Darryl Sutter signs an autograph for seven-year-old Taylor Kergan as his mom Carmen...

Flames GM-coach Darryl Sutter signs an autograph for seven-year-old Taylor Kergan as his mom Carmen looks on at the Alberta Children's Hospital yesterday. Sutter and Flames president Ken King were on hand to help kick off the eighth annual Superpages Recycling Program, which has raised more than $250,000 for the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation. Sutter isn't surprised the NHL lockout has gone on as long as it has. (Calgary Sun/Jim Wells)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Six weeks into the NHL lockout, Darryl Sutter isn't getting antsy.

The lack of communication between league owners and the NHLPA doesn't have the Flames GM-head coach wondering when this stoppage will end and pining away for a solution.

"I never looked at it like something was gonna get done Sept. 15 anyway, so it's given me the opportunity to do a lot of things I wished I could have done last year," Sutter said yesterday.

"Experience teaches you. In 1994, there was a period of time that same posturing went on."

Seeing as the NHL has now cancelled games until early December, fans across the continent are starting to wonder whether the 2004-05 season will be saved.

Which means nerves are getting frayed. Sutter continues to take it as it comes.

"However long it takes, that's how long it takes," he said. "We all want to be back but (the old collective bargaining agreement) obviously didn't work, so however long it takes to get straightened out, that's what needs to be done."

It's a different stance from what you're hearing from more and more players, including Calgary's Andrew Ference -- who charged last week both sides are failing in the quest to come up with a new CBA.

"Basically, what you're seeing and hearing is probably frustration on everybody's part," Sutter said.

"Also, anybody who didn't go through it in '94 is probably more quoted now."

On hand at the Alberta Children's Hospital yesterday to kick off the Superpages recycling program, Sutter has used the last 41 days to get a handle on the Flames' many prospects.

He's closely followed players in the minors, college and junior to see where he believes they fit.

"Once we get that all done, then we'll start working on the upcoming draft," Sutter said. "Last weekend, I saw Kris Chucko (the first pick from this year's draft) play twice and it was great seeing Minnesota play North Dakota.

"He played really well. It was two teams with a lot of kids who've been drafted and three first-round picks."

Sutter also wasn't too concerned about the bad news the Flames received this past weekend. Agitator Ville Nieminen was lighting up the scoreboard in Finland before being knocked out of action for a few months due to a broken wrist, while prized prospect Dion Phaneuf suffered an injury with the WHL's Red Deer Rebels.

Still, Sutter believes it'd be best if all his players were playing somewhere during the impasse.

"It's part of the game. The way (Nieminen) plays, if he's not at least getting banged up, he probably shouldn't be playing," he said.

"There's nothing wrong with Dion. The way he plays, he's gonna get banged up in his career. He'll probably miss the weekend but he's the best player in Canada."

Phaneuf is out day to day with a bruised collarbone suffered after being hit hard by Calgary Hitmen rookie Brody Dupont.

SALE SLATED: The Flames' annual used equipment sale will be held during the Hitmen's game Saturday against Moose Jaw. Doors open at 6 p.m. To attend, you must have a game ticket for the Hitmen/Warriors clash.


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