SUN Hockey Pool

GM fine with crossing pond

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

DENVER -- Twice, Darryl Sutter has gone overseas with NHL teams.

No sense of been-there, done-that for the Calgary Flames GM, who was head coach of the San Jose Sharks when they played a pair of regular season games against the Flames in Japan in the fall of 1998 and with the Chicago Blackhawks when they faced the Montreal Canadiens for a pair of exhibition contests in London in September 1992.

"If you're a good team, it's a good thing," Sutter said yesterday, as he watched his troops take the morning skate in preparation for facing the Colorado Avalanche.

"When the Flames and Sharks went, they were both bad teams. I told Brian (Sutter, his brother who was then-coach of the Flames), we might as well have played volleyball in Hawaii.

"If you're a good team, it's great. If you ever get the opportunity, do it -- as long as it fits your schedule."

Rumours abound the Flames and Sharks will face off in Helsinki, Finland, to start next season, as two of six teams pegged to play in Europe to kick off the 2009-10 NHL campaign.

Sutter said the opportunity is above the potential jet lag.

"It's not a big deal. It's not much difference starting in New York City," Sutter said. "There's three or four of us in the league that have the worst travel anyway, so it's zero impact.

"You just need your days to recover. What's more important to me is if you were identified as a team in today's game that could go, because it's about building the game. It means you've got a good hockey team."

That was the case when Sutter and the Blackhawks squared off against the Canadiens at Wembley Arena.

"Awesome," Sutter said of that event. "We were both good teams. It doesn't matter where you play. I've always said you can play behind the barn if you're a good team."

The list of NHL coaches who hail from Sutter's home town of Viking grew by one yesterday when the Ottawa Senators replaced Craig Hartsburg with Cory Clouston, a rare non-Sutter from the small Alberta town to be part of the NHL.

Clouston, who was coaching the Sens AHL team in Binghamton, coached Brett Sutter during his tenure with the WHL's Kootenay Ice. The Flames GM knows Clouston but doesn't foresee contacting him in the immediate future to wish him luck.

"I don't think he needs a phone call for me," Sutter said. "I think it'll be jammed down his throat pretty good here."

Besides, over the next month, Sutter and the 29 other GMs will be prepping for the March 4 trade deadline.

Sutter said he doesn't foresee much more trade action across the league than the past couple of years. Maybe even less.

"It's becoming finer and finer, the balance in the league ... and there's not sellers," Sutter said. "I know the deadline is a popular day. Everybody gets to build it up, tell their tales and write up about players, but if you're a good enough team -- I've said it before -- the most important time is going into the season, not in March. "If there was a point where we were a seller, it might be a big day for us."

The rumour mongers keep putting the Flames front and centre with all kinds of absurd rumours -- Chris Pronger, Martin Gerber -- but Sutter said nobody available has caught his attention.

"I think the players we've called up are a hell of a lot better than those on the market," Sutter said. "I don't really see anything that's going to help our team out there -- right at this point anyways."


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