SUN Hockey Pool

King says decision was hard

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:39 PM ET

The pause lasted nearly 10 seconds after Ken King said the word “horrible.”

Asked how to describe his day after asking Darryl Sutter to resign from his GM duties, the Flames president said one word and took a few moments to compose himself.

“If you’re a seasoned executive, you’ll be faced with choices you don’t want to make,” King said with his eyes welling up. “If you’re a seasoned executive, you will be faced with choices you would prefer not to make. And if you’re a seasoned executive, you’d better make the choices, better make the decisions, or you’d better not call yourself a seasoned executive.

“If I ever get good at it or I ever enjoy it, you’d better line up your criticism directly at me, because there is no joy.”

Jay Feaster, who was the assistant GM, is now the acting GM.

The calls for Sutter’s dismissal grew louder and louder, but King had been unwavering with his support of the man who was hired to coach in December 2002 and was given the GM duties the following spring.

In the end, King said it was his call to finally ask Darryl to step aside, and he was not directed to do it by ownership.

“Darryl’s stepping down is because I asked him to,” King said. “And the only concern he had in that process was what was best for the team and what could he do that would be helpful for the team. What did we have to do moving forward?

“I told him his guidance, his expertise and his depth of knowledge, which I consider to be nothing short of brilliance in his field, would be helpful for us, and he said he would do that. He will, because that’s the kind of guy he is.”

Even Sutter’s biggest detractors must praise the job he did in the first few seasons. He was coach and GM of the squad which snapped the seven-season run without playoff and reached the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final.

Sutter also built a team which won the Northwest Division title during the 2005-06.

However, despite being at the NHL’s salary cap since it was imposed following the lockout which wiped out the 2004-05 season, the Flames failed to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs, and missed them completely last season.

Things look just a bleak this season with the Flames sitting 14th in the Western Conference and staring at a rebuild.

Considering the questionable trades Sutter has made over the past year, which have made the Flames one of the league’s oldest squads and failed to bring in more draft choices or prospects, it’s obvious Sutter isn’t the man for the job to rebuild.

“All teams are in perpetual state of rebuilding. How drastic, how dramatic that is, is part of ebb and flow of the business,” King said. “But I don’t believe Darryl would have ever believed it’s not a perpetual process.”

“Jay brings to the table a number of qualities that are different, but ... in this business there are a lot of ways to be right and a lot of ways to be wrong. I think Jay is going to bring a dimension and a freshness, which do not make the conclusion it’s staleness or anything else. Jay brings a different perspective, he brings a different philosophy and he brings a different style. It’s not better, it’s different.”

King said Sutter was not asked to fire his brother, head coach Brent Sutter, and step behind the bench and repeatedly praised the man forced out the door.

“I don’t think anyone anywhere would argue that he didn’t help in the most significant rebirth in an NHL franchise or a sports franchise anywhere,” King said. “For that I personally am eternally grateful. The organization is eternally grateful.”

— Randy Sportak


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