SUN Hockey Pool

Coach Sutter had no problem with Phaneuf

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

Brent Sutter was supposed to be the guy who could finally get the best out of Dion Phaneuf.

Their reunion lasted a little more than half a year.

But Phaneuf’s junior hockey coach turned NHL tutor says the relationship wasn’t rocky, as so many have suggested.

It started with the highly tweeted screaming session early in the season, when Phaneuf walked out of the head coach’s office and no one could confirm what went on inside.

“Dion and myself have zero issues at all,” Sutter said Sunday after Phaneuf was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-player swap. “There’s stuff made out about the beginning of the year, but it all was being passionate about what we want to get done here. There was never an issue. I have the utmost respect for Dion.

“I’ve seen him grow and grow up.”

Sutter won’t get to see him flourish — at least not up close and personal as he might have expected after taking the top job with the Calgary Flames last summer — but he anticipates improvement for the Flames with the addition of Leafs forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers, and defenceman Ian White.

Sutter would rather focus on what the deal means for the team than what it might have suggested about Phaneuf’s relationship with the Flames.

“Dion and my relationship was very good,” Sutter said. “He understands me and I understand him. That goes back from him being a young age through major junior together.

“This organization is able to do this (trade) because of the depth we have. Let’s focus on what we have coming to our hockey team. There are some pretty established hockey players we’re excited about being part of what we’re trying to get done here.”

For the Leafs, adding another marketable young player who combines offensive skill with the ability to land big hits fits right in with GM Brian Burke’s blueprint. And Sutter believes Phaneuf could ultimately become the player the Flames always hoped.

“It’s pretty evident what Toronto’s trying to do there,” Sutter said. “They went out and got Kessel earlier in the year.

“Dion’s a young guy that’s still growing and finding himself as a player and he’ll continue to do so.”


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