Sutter's locker-room talk OK with Kennan

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Those close to Mike Keenan are likely the only ones who know exactly how the Calgary Flames head coach felt when general manager Darryl Sutter stepped in to lean on his players after a second straight loss on the road this week.

Steaming mad is a pretty good bet.

After the media was shuffled out and the doors closed Tuesday night for the discussion, Keenan chose to leave without speaking.

Maybe he didn't want to say anything that would land him in the same sort of hot water his team was in.

But a day after the 3-1 loss to the Stars in Dallas, Keenan suggested he welcomes the occasional locker-room visit from his boss.

"It's not an issue," said Keenan. "You know you're getting an honest message from Darryl. I've worked with him for a long time. I embrace his input and the group learns from it. He brings a different voice and a different perspective -- he's watching the game from above as opposed to ice level.

"The message was very clear. We know that we want to continue to improve, and it's as simple as that."

Some people see that kind of visit as helping to send a message. Others see it as stepping on toes.

Which brings up the question: Did Keenan ever make a locker-room speech when their roles were reversed, when Sutter was coaching the Chicago Blackhawks and Keenan was the general manager?

"No, I didn't," Keenan said with a laugh. "It's not to say that I wouldn't have, but Mr. Wirtz decided to let me go in November, so I never got a chance to do it."

When Sutter last publicly took control of the Flames locker-room, it was after that infamous beating from the Sharks in San Jose in mid-November. The team had just returned completed its first practice back in Calgary when the GM slipped in with a message from up high.

Things were certainly more gloomy back then, but expectations have been increased because of his team's performance ever since.

"The bar's being raised here because of our successes," said Keenan. "It's a matter of teaching and continuing to teach our group what the responsibilities are and the expectations are when you do become more successful.

"It takes constant improvement to continue to win in this league."

The players get the message. In fact, they got the same one from captain Jarome Iginla minutes before Sutter stormed in.

"The weird thing is Jarome had a meeting just prior to that and pretty much said the same thing," said Craig Conroy.

Iginla yesterday recapped their similar sentiments.

"Most of the message was just not to be complacent," said Iginla. "We need to keep getting better."

Coming from inside the room, that message might be even more important than the address from Sutter, says defensive leader Robyn Regehr.

"For us to be a better team, it has to come from within, and we can't rely on any other influences to motivate teams. Good teams, it happens from the players," said Regehr. "There's always certain instances, though, you need to be updated. I don't want to say read the riot act. Everybody goes through periods where they are evaluated, I guess is the best way to say that.

"(Sutter) wasn't happy, and he let it be known."

Keenan, on the other hand, chooses to hide any unhappiness over the incident.

"I think the mix between Darryl and I is strong, and good, and the understanding is excellent," said Keenan.

"I've walked in his shoes and he's obviously walked in mine."

Maybe even treaded on them at times.


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