SUN Hockey Pool

'Coach' Sutter tough, effective

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Coaching brings out the worst side of Darryl Sutter.

The red-faced, saliva-tossing beratings delivered both behind closed doors and behind the bench are rarely talked about publicly, but are legendary.

Historically, Sutter coaching also brings out the best in his players.

"It's not gonna be cupcakes and cookies and milk," said Calgary Flames winger Eric Nystrom amid speculation Sutter will again take on dual roles and guide the team from ice level next season.

"I played two games under him -- my first two games. I don't think he was too hard on me because I was only there two games, but I've definitely heard he's a demanding, tough coach."

Dion Phaneuf experienced it in his first year as a pro, which was Sutter's last one as head coach in 2005-06.

Mounted on one of the media lounge walls at the Saddledome is a wide-angle photo of the rookie defenceman taking a mouthful from a pinkening and pointing Sutter on the bench.

"He's definitely a passionate guy," Phaneuf said yesterday. "I liked playing for Darryl."

Accustomed to the harsh but honest style a Sutter brings because of his grooming years with the Red Deer Rebels under the guidance of Darryl's brother Brent, Phaneuf sees a lot of similarities in all his recent coaches.

Mike Keenan could spew venom at times, and Jim Playfair wasn't nearly as nice to his charges as head coach as he was as an assistant.

"They like to push their guys," said Phaneuf.

If not for a pesky final year of his deal with the Devils, it's widely believed Brent Sutter would be coaching the Flames next year, reuniting with Phaneuf.

The 24-year-old defenceman says there are differences but also a lot of similarities between the two.

"No two people are the same. They're similar," said Phaneuf. "They have the same philosophy. All you have to do is give them an honest effort every night. That's all they ask for."

More like demand.

And it's best you do what is asked of you.

"The guys that are gonna do that are guys that are going to thrive under that," said Nystrom. "The guys that don't are going to suffer."

There might be a little suffering regardless. But winning isn't easy in the NHL these days.

"If you're playing well, he's still going to be down your throat," Nystrom said with a laugh. "If you're playing bad, he's going to be down your throat -- either way.

"But it's just the truth. Sometimes, people want to sugarcoat the reality of it -- he just comes out and tells you the way it is.

"Sometimes, that's what opens your eyes to what's going on around you. That's one of his strong points. He's not going to coddle you."

What Flames fans want to see is their favourite team live up to its potential.

"I think there are methods to get guys to respond. Darryl's done it in the past. He's had successful teams and he knows how to get the most out of players," said Nystrom.

"Maybe he's the guy who's capable of doing that."


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