Flames have lots of respect for Sutter
STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
|Kings head coach Darryl Sutter puts his arms around Brad Richardson (right) and Andrei Loktionov (left) during a game against the Canucks in Los Angeles, Calif., Dec. 31, 2011. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Reuters)
CALGARY - As much as the hockey world may be looking forward to Darryl Sutter’s return to Calgary to face the Flames for the on-ice reasons, the players have a feeling there will be more to it than just the game.
The former Flames GM and head coach didn’t leave on the greatest of terms, hasn’t addressed his stepping down with the locals since he was asked to resign last December, and didn’t exactly endear himself to many members of the media during his nine-year stay.
“I always enjoyed his comments. I’m sure he’ll have some good ones again,” snickered Flames defenceman Cory Sarich, who was told there would probably be some theatrics when Sutter’s Los Angeles Kings come to the Saddledome Saturday night.
“I think that’s your guys’ role in it, isn’t it?” Sarich asked. “I’ll probably be in here doing the same thing, eating chicken and pasta. I’m sure you guys will provide the excitement.”
Fellow blueliner Mark Giordano is looking forward to all the peripheral antics that will be discussed, written about, recorded to video and shown on every sports and news station in the city and likely across the country starting as soon as the Anaheim Ducks — Thursday’s Flames opponent — leave town.
“I’m sure you guys are looking forward to interviewing him and seeing what kind of reaction you get out of him,” Giordano said of welcoming Sutter back to the province he calls home.
“I know I am. I’m looking forward to that — watching a couple of interviews.”
What they might not be looking forward to is facing the Kings team now coached by their former leader.
If they know anything from their own Sutter experience — from the time he began coaching them in 2002 to the time he walked away a little more than a year ago — it’s that his teams are prepared to work more often than not.
“It’ll be a good, tough game,” said Flames rearguard Scott Hannan, whose first NHL coach was Sutter in San Jose in the late-1990s. “He’ll have that team ready to battle against us, for sure.”
“They look like a pretty determined team,” added Sarich, who only knew Sutter as the Flames GM outside of facing him on the opposing bench during the 2004 Stanley Cup final. “I think he demands that of guys.
“You saw a bit of a trickle-down effect from him as a GM in regards to that.”
Even after he separated his coaching and GM duties and focused solely on the latter after the 2005-06 season, Sutter’s intensity and determination to win didn’t fall by the wayside.
“He’s an intense guy. It didn’t matter which role he was in, he had the same mentality,” said Giordano. “Very intense. Expected a lot of the guys.”
But while it’s easy to assume players disliked the man for his verbal assaults and occasional locker-room tirades, they actually respected him for his honesty.
And you won’t find any player who didn’t believe the harsh approach came from an eagerness to win games — which is what they all want.
“At the end of the day, he was that way because he cared. He really did care about his players,” Giordano said.
“I think the side people don’t know about him is away from the rink. When you needed something, he was always honest, genuine and there for players and the guys on the team.
“He wasn’t afraid to tell anyone where you stood or what he thought. He’s honest. Sometimes when you’re honest, it can be pretty harsh, but it’s better than hearing someone bull---t you.”
Many of his former charges will even admit they were better for having him as a coach.
“In ways, I think it made me a better professional, the way I play and approach the game,” said Hannan. “When you come to work — I think he puts that into you from the start.
“He’s good with the details. He asks a lot of the players, and it makes you ask a lot of yourself. He says (harsh) stuff. He’s a fiery guy. But he cares. He cares about you as a player.
“He’s hard on you because he cares about you, and he cares about the team winning. He puts that first. It makes you a better player.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”