January 4, 2011
Sutter brothers in uncomfortable silence
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - If there was ever any question how dysfunctional things were between Darryl Sutter and his coach, it was answered by Brent Sutter yesterday.
Asked if he’d spoken to his older brother since he was dismissed as Flames GM last Tuesday, coach Brent shook his head and lowered his eyes.
“No,” he said quietly.
Brent said he’d reached out by sending several texts to Darryl following his ousting but hasn’t heard back.
Sad but telling silence from a brother.
Brent has long publicly downplayed the lack of communication between him and Darryl during their year-and-a-half together with the Flames, but when asked yesterday if he’d spoken to Darryl his honest answer said it all.
Understandably, Darryl has proven elusive since his dismissal.
He hasn’t spoken publicly and several of his players are still awaiting some sort of response after wishing him well. Jarome Iginla and Curtis Glencross are just two of the current Flames who’ve heard back from Darryl.
Darryl’s acting replacement, Jay Feaster, has been in communication with Sutter and will soon sit down with him for a “transitional” meeting to tie up any loose ends.
Darryl has apparently accepted the compensation package handed to him as part of his separation after eight years with the organization – an arrangement that had been stipulated as part of his contract in perpetuity.
One insider said one of Darryl’s last acts as GM was to endorse the job being done by both Brent and Feaster, who was then his assistant GM.
Still, it appears there are some hard feelings involving brother Brent.
Feaster was brought in, in part, to bridge the gap between the coach and GM and from Day 1, Brent has spoken glowingly about the non-stop communication between him and the former Lightning GM — a relationship that continues to grow as Feaster will count heavily on input from Brent on how the club proceeds from here.
Feaster is essentially auditioning for the GM job and, as such, is piecing together two blueprints for Ken King and the owners to peruse: One that sees the club somehow climb back into the playoff race and another that will outline his plans should the playoffs become unreachable.
Either way, Feaster’s hands are tied by a league-leading 11 no trade/no movement clauses, which includes the team’s two major bargaining chips, Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Feaster says he has no plans to trade Iginla anyway, which is supported by his actions in Tampa Bay where he built a Stanley Cup winner around three superstar forwards and a veteran goalie.
“I believe in identifying your core players and building around them,” said Feaster of his theory.
“For every Tampa and Pittsburgh who use young draft picks to build a Cup winner, there are a lot of other teams who stockpile draft picks and it gets them nowhere.”
In other words, he’s not that keen on going the route of the Edmonton Oilers. Then again, he doesn’t have that luxury as the organizational depth chart is thin, few draft picks are upcoming and his team has committed to $56 million in payroll for next year already.
He said only a few vultures have started circling from around the league to try picking away at the Flames carcass. More GMs will emerge as the trade deadline nears.
Brent and Feaster both have another year left on their three-year deals and are very likely to be working together until at least then as both exchange ideas non-stop on how the organization should proceed — a luxury the club hasn’t benefited from in years.
For Brent, it’s much like the relationship he had with GM Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey, a man who just so happens to be Feaster’s mentor.
With Brent and Feaster travelling together all year, maybe Darryl feels he got squeezed out of the picture by a relationship he wasn’t able to forge with any of his coaches.
Sadly, it possible he’s allowed that disconnect to drive a wedge between him and his brother.
If so, that’s far more unfortunate than losing a job.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panelist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada