Assistants no strangers to big league

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Staring at the assembled media from their long table at the front of the conference room yesterday were the grim faces of Sutter brothers Darryl and Brent.

Beside them were a couple more grimaces and a grin -- courtesy of new Calgary Flames assistant coaches Ryan McGill, Dave Lowry and Jamie McLennan.

Only McLennan is known to sport an unforced smile.

"It's a staff that's very passionate about the game. We had to work -- not so much Brent, but myself and Ryan and Jamie -- we had to work every day to earn the right to play in the National Hockey League," said Lowry, who gave up his post as Calgary Hitmen head coach to join the Flames. "That created our identities as players. It's no different as coaches.

"We all have the same mindset, and we all want to win. Passion, commitment, we're all very detailed guys."

McGill developed a hard-nosed reputation similar to the Sutters while coaching the Flames AHL affiliates in Quad Cities and Omaha the past four seasons.

"I understand high expectations," said McGill, who was replaced in the AHL by former Flames associate coach Jim Playfair once the team moved to Abbotsford, B.C. this spring.

"I think that as a group of coaches, you wouldn't want it any other way."

Lowry played as late as the 2004 season, when he was under Darryl Sutter's coaching guidance with the Flames. He was a serious soul then and is just as intense as a coach now, but he knows there has to be some lightheartedness and enjoyment in the locker-room.

"We understand that coaching has to be fun," he said. "The players see that, the players respond."

McLennan was always relied on in that department as a backup goaltender under Miikka Kiprusoff -- the same man he's responsible for keeping in check this season along with current No. 2 Curtis McElhinney.

"My biggest thing with Miikka is we respect each other," McLennan said. "It's not me telling him what to do, it's me helping him out."


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