CALGARY - For those who remember the Calgary Flames coaching carousel at the start of the century, this is a refreshing switch.
Despite the club’s struggles to start the season, a 10-12-2 record going into Saturday night’s road clash with the Edmonton Oilers, Brent Sutter is safe in his job as head coach, according to GM Jay Feaster.
“I’m happy with this coaching staff,” Feaster said Friday morning at the Saddledome. “That’s probably the dreaded vote of confidence or whatever they call it, but this coaching staff has done a good job.
“They work hard. They’ve done a good job of teaching.”
Remember what it was like around the Saddledome a decade ago?
For fun, or to bring up painful memories for Flames fans, here’s a recap:
• Brian Sutter. Fired April 11, 2000, after three seasons.
• Don Hay. Fired March 14, 2001, after 68 games.
• Greg Gilbert. Fired Dec. 3, 2002, after 121 games.
After two-plus seasons at the helm, Darryl Sutter, who replaced Gilbert, decided to strictly serve as GM, and had Jim Playfair at the helm for the 2006-07 season. When that didn’t work to plan, Mike Keenan was brought in and served as bench boss for two seasons, eventually fired with one more year on his contract.
By comparison to some of those coaches, Brent Sutter has had an eternity in his role despite not making the playoffs in his first two seasons, but Feaster said he doesn’t believe a change is needed at this time.
“We all know the results are not where they need to be, but at the same time ... this is not a group that’s tuned out the coaches,” Feaster said. “It (the team’s win-loss percentage) is not because the guys are not believing in the coaching staff or not following the coaching staff.”
Sutter’s contract runs out after this season, and there has been no talk of an extension.
“He’s one of the most unique coaches that I’ve ever been around. He owns his own business. He owns his own team,” Feaster said. “He hires coaches. He hires managers. He hires business people.
“We had this conversation this past summer. We weren’t going to talk about anything until the end of the season, and Brent understands that. There are a lot of guys who might be banging on the door saying, ‘This is not right. We have to do this right now’ but Brent gets it. We made the commitment together in the summer that we would talk about it at the end of the season.”
Should the Flames fail to make the playoffs, which is looking more likely every passing day, it’s hard to imagine Sutter will receive a new deal.
Still, it’s obvious Feaster and Sutter are working together to change the club’s personnel and the identity.
It’s also worth noting Feaster steadfastly supported coach John Tortorella during lean times in Tampa Bay, firing him because new owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie wanted to put Barry Melrose at the helm.
A month after Tortorella was let go, Feaster resigned.
At this point, Feaster said he expects his team to be in the playoff picture.
“When you look at the collection of the players in that room, we still have that ability,” he said.