SUN Hockey Pool

Coach Sutter feeling the heat

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

Telltale signs of stress betray Brent Sutter’s words.

Over the last week or so, the Calgary Flames head coach has said on a few occasions he isn’t concerned about his job. That he can’t waste time worrying. Rumours of change are all part of guiding a professional sports team.

But reading his reaction at the podium after Monday’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Saddledome, it was easy to see Sutter is well aware he’s on the hot seat and only human in stressing about it.

A coach on the verge of being fired can’t afford to have his team portrayed in a negative light.

And while local members of the media have plenty of respect for Sutter — he majority of them believing he’s the wrong guy to blame for the Flames’ lack of performance and shouldn’t be canned — some questions can’t be avoided.

When those questions began sliding away from the positives after a victory that propelled the team — if only temporarily — out of the Western Conference basement, Sutter winced.

Instead of shutting down a team ahead of them in the standings, a blown two-goal lead handed the Blue Jackets a point of their own Monday night.

The coach had to be expecting a question about the collapse. Probably dreading it.

But the last thing he needs after winning a game is an article or highlight package picking at the negatives, so he naturally got a little defensive.

“You know what, you guys,” he said with a shake of his head. “You win the hockey game. We need to get points. We need to win games. It’s a big win for us, so focus in on that.

“Let’s not focus on the fact we had a 2-0 lead ... we played a good team tonight.

“Let’s focus on the win. We found a way to get two points. We had an outstanding first period. We’ve had a tough schedule. We got a big win here tonight.

“That’s what I’m focused in on. I’m not looking at negatives. Every game there’s some things that can happen that you wish wouldn’t happen and you work on it and make yourself better.”

The problem with his team is while it’s shown over the course of a few weeks it can play better, it’s not getting results.

It still hasn’t won consecutive games since the first month of the season.

It still finds itself at or near the bottom of the Western Conference standings as a result.

And rumours of someone taking the fall won’t end until the team shows it’s capable of making the playoffs.

That will require a winning streak of a more than modest nature. It will also mean one of the top-eight teams in the west suffering a pretty spectacular fall as well.

Otherwise, someone in Calgary is bound to fall on a sword.

The coach has always been Darryl Sutter’s sacrificial lamb.

Since Darryl left the post to focus solely on general manager duties, Jim Playfair and Mike Keenan have both been cast aside for being unable to lead the GMs assembled cast past the first round of the playoffs.

His brother Brent likely won’t be any more difficult for him to toss if it means he gets to stick around a little longer.

But if ownership demands Darryl coach his own crew in the aftermath, he could easily be the next one to go.

Coaches in Calgary don’t have much in the way of job security.

Brent has every reason to stress about it, even if he denies losing any sleep over it.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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