SUN Hockey Pool

McGill cut from same cloth as Flames GM

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Considered a longshot to become the next Calgary Flames head coach, AHL affiliate bench boss Ryan McGill's style doesn't differ much from the favourite.

A Darryl Sutter disciple -- who was coached by the current Flames GM as a member of the Turner Cup-winning IHL Indianapolis Ice in 1990 -- has guided the franchise's farm team for four years with a similar brand of harsh accountability.

If he comes up short in a bid for the top job, and Sutter takes the reins himself, you can bet McGill will be beside him on the bench.

"That's a scary tandem," suggested Flames winger Eric Nystrom, who toiled for McGill in the AHL for parts of three seasons.

"When I was down there, he was very demanding. We did well. We were the toughest team to play against, by far, in the league.

"That's because we had such a distinctive style. That's something you need, especially at the NHL level. If you have a style of play everybody buys into, it doesn't matter how many superstars you have, it's hard to play against you."

Not wanting to comment until his fate with the Flames is determined, McGill is currently waiting for Sutter's decisions to be made.

The 40-year-old former defenceman, however, receives praise from those he coached and those he coached against.

Flames blueliner Dion Phaneuf was up against McGill's Kootenay Ice as a rookie in the 2001-02 WHL championship. Phaneuf's Red Deer Rebels fell 4-2 in the best-of-seven series. McGill's Ice went on to win the Memorial Cup.

"From what I hear from my buddies who played for him, he's a very good coach," said Phaneuf. "I'm sure he's being considered as well."

With the Omaha Knights and Quad City Flames, McGill established an identity similar to the one Sutter has tried to keep consistent. A team that is tough to play against.

And if some of his players weren't pulling their weight, they'd ride the pine.

That's something many feel Mike Keenan didn't do enough of with the Flames.

Sutter certainly has never been afraid of sitting his top guys. It sounds like McGill wouldn't, either.

"He just demands you buy into the team concept. If you're not going to, he has no problem sitting guys," said Nystrom, who played a full season under McGill in 2005-06. "When I was down there, if some guys weren't going, he would just play two lines. You'd be going every other shift if he thought you were one of the guys playing. If you weren't one of the guys going well, you were sitting on the bench.

"He didn't play favourites."

One of the toughest parts about coaching the Flames is getting the players to react well to your style. They might take it from Sutter. Would they be as responsive to McGill?

"That's something only time can tell," said Nystrom. "If he does get the job."


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