Truth sometimes hurts

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

CHICAGO -- John Madden knows what it's like to be in Brent Sutter's room when the team lo ses.

"It's unexplainable," said the former New Jersey Devils centre who now plays for the Chicago Blackhawks. "It depends how you lose. Some nights when you don't show up and don't play hard, those are the worst. But having played the game and been around the game his entire life, he understands things don't always go the way you draw them up. He's very fair like that. Some nights, teams get the bounces, and he knows that.

"If you don't show up and don't play hard, it's going to be terrible in the dressing room."

Good thing Madden and the Devils won more often than not while Sutter -- now the Calgary Flames head coach -- was at the helm for two seasons.

The Devils combined for 97 wins, including a 51-27-4 mark last season, much of which was without all-world netminder Martin Brodeur.

A big part of that, Madden contends, was the man behind the bench.

"He holds everybody accountable. No stone will go unturned after a loss, that's for sure," he said. "Is he a good coach? He cares for them away from the rink, as well.

"You're gonna get the truth, no doubt about it. At times, some guys are going to get called out, in the dressing room and in the media, so you'd better bring your 'A' game when you're playing for him."

What about those who can't deal with the brutal honesty?

Sutter will admit it's not always "kind love."

"Some really thrive on that stuff, get ticked off when they get called out or when the coach is after them, play harder than before," said Madden, who signed with Chicago in the off-season. "Other guys don't play so well. I don't think they would have assembled a team that wouldn't be able to take it, so if anybody's on the other side of the fence and can't take the heat, I'm sure they'll get rid of him at some point and get somebody who'll stand up and play hard when they're called upon."

Madden thrived under Sutter. In 2007-08, he netted 20 goals and a career best 43 points.

"Two years in a row we had chances to win Cups there. We played some good hockey. He gives you a chance to win," Madden said.

He earned the coach's respect, too.

"He had a good understanding of the game," Sutter said of the player he called Mad Dog. "He's won before, knows how to win, and knows how to play."

It took time to figure out Sutter's gameplan, he said. So those wondering about Calgary's shots against need to give it time.

"It takes a little bit to get used to doing things you're not used to doing," Madden said.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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