SUN Hockey Pool

Flames on hire ground

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:53 AM ET

Stability is something the Calgary Flames have lacked for years.

It’s been a coaching merry-go-round since the lockout, with head coaches inheriting assistants, dealing with promotions and demotions and a rare larger-scale turnover taking place.

The hiring of associate coach Craig Hartsburg and senior video analyst Jamie Pringle seems to indicate that time of uncertainty is over.

There’s no doubt now this is head coach Brent Sutter’s staff.

“These are Brent’s hires,” Flames GM Jay Feaster said outside the dressing room at the Saddledome Monday afternoon after the team announced the additions to the staff.

“I sit in on the interviews, or in the case of Hartsie, Brent met with him extensively and then (Hartsburg) met with me.”

But Feaster made it very clear to all candidates his head coach would be making the final decisions.

“These hires are Brent’s to make,” Feaster told them.

“I think that’s the most critical thing of what we’re doing, is that it’s important for Brent to hire his staff.”

No Flames head coach has had that kind of control since Brent’s brother Darryl Sutter was brought in during the 2002-03 season.

When Darryl retreated into the GM office full-time in 2006, handing the head coaching reins to former assistant Jim Playfair, the latter inherited the likes of Rich Preston, Rob Cookson and David Marcoux, and added Wayne Fleming to the mix.

After Playfair’s lone season at the helm saw him pulled back into an associate coach role, new bench-boss Mike Keenan also landed square in the middle of an established group of those same assistants. Fleming was pushed into a development role for a year before returning to the on-ice role in Keenan’s second season.

It would be Keenan’s last — and Brent Sutter was brought in as a replacement.

But the tradition of a somewhat forced supporting cast continued despite a purge that saw Preston, Fleming and Marcoux all cast aside. Cookson survived the cut, and although Brent Sutter hired Dave Lowry to help with the offence, his man for the defensive side of things came from within the organization in the form of Ryan McGill — who previously coached the kids on the farm in the American Hockey League.

Another Darryl Sutter favourite, former Flames goalie Jamie McLennan, was hired to coach the netminders.

It’s no surprise now that Brent Sutter has been given total control of his staff that Lowry remains, while McGill, Cookson and McLennan are no longer behind the bench or in the rafters at the Saddledome.

The addition of Hartsburg and Pringle means a Flames coach is finally surrounded by people of his own picking — for the first time in years.

“It’s a confidence and trust thing,” Sutter said Monday.

“Believe me, it just doesn’t go there. The players read into all that, too. They see that. It just makes them feel better, too.

“It just stabilizes everything.”

The definitions of responsibility may have been blurred in the past, but the picture is pretty clear now.

Feaster and Sutter stress communication, and the duo also has the ear of president Ken King and the NHL club’s ownership group.

“Not that you’re always going to agree on things, but to have such a very strong but resourceful discussion coming to an outcome on decisions … with myself and Jay and Ken, the three of us do work close together,” Sutter said.

Expect the same from Sutter’s coaching staff, which ideally will stick together for a while.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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