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Flames' failure pains Sutter

Flames head coach Brent Sutter. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency file photo)

Flames head coach Brent Sutter. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency file photo)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:09 AM ET

CALGARY - The disappointment of missing the playoffs a third straight season can't be missed when you look at Brent Sutter's face.

The Calgary Flames coach, whose team was officially eliminated with Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks, makes no bones about wearing his heart on his sleeve.

But the pain is easy to read when you see the weariness his eyes.

After his team's afternoon meeting in anticipation of the Canucks game, Sutter was asked if he's been sleeping OK.

The response started with a "no" and ended up being nearly a 14-minute answer.

"You feel like you failed," he said. "What hurts, what kills me, is seeing the guys let each other down, let themselves down. They're like you're own kids and you want them to succeed and want to see them do well.

"At the end of the day, it's about them winning or losing, and you want to see them succeed. That's your job as a coach, to help them and get them through that. What disappointing is you feel like you could have done more and wonder what else you could do to help them. You feel bad for them. You feel bad for the organization. You feel bad for the fans.

"You feel like you let everybody down. That's a tough one."

The Flames will play out the string with home games against the Canucks and then Anaheim Ducks, and then begin building for next season.

The future of almost every player is up in the air, but it's the same for Sutter.

His three-year contract is concluded, and there have been no signs as to whether he'll be re-signed or the team will look elsewhere, even though he and GM Jay Feaster appear to be on the same page.

"I'm not worried about myself," said the two-time Stanley Cup winner and four-time Canada Cup champ. "Whatever management does, whatever they decide to do, they do, but my job as a coach is to try and continue ... to do the right thing for the team to have success, for the team, for the organization, for the fans, for the people that support the team. Everybody wants to win, but in today's game, you win a certain way. If you don't do it, if you're below it, you're not going to have success.

"We've got to find a way to get above it."

For three seasons, Sutter has tried to instill an up-tempo style of game. He still believes in that system -- noting it's the same used by the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings -- but couldn't seem to be consistently executed by the Flames.

The easy response is the Flames are too old, too slow, not talented enough and not built for a punishing forechecking game.

Sutter says the winning streaks over the years proved this club had the players to win with the gameplan. They just didn't do it on a consistent basis.

"It's re-assured me when this team has done it right how good we can be. And it's reassured me when we're not doing it right, we're not at the level we need to be," he said. "The game isn't played like it was six, seven years ago. It's not played like it was before the lockout (which wiped out the 2004-05 season) and even the first year after the lockout. When all the rules changed, it took a year or two for everyone to get acclimatized to that environment, and the teams that had success with it, are the teams that really took it and went with it.

"You look at all the teams that have had consistent success the last three or four years, the players have adjusted to how the game is played, and it doesn't matter whether you're the top guy or the guy down here, everybody has to play a certain way, but we fight with that.

"For whatever reason, we just don't seem to want to get through that, and that's -- for me -- a killer, because you know, when we do it, how well we play. We can play with anybody in the league when we do it the right way."

Don't believe him?

Sutter said he watched a Detroit game this season, and the Red Wings dumped the puck into the offensive zone 50 times with plans to retrieve it.

"They ended up winning something like 5-0 because they ended up playing the whole game in the offensive zone," Sutter said. "We think that's a bad thing in our game if we have to dump the puck in or have to chip pucks behind defencemen and go get it. We want to make the perfect play. If it's there, yes, make it, but we force it because we don't want to do it. It takes our speed away from the game, because you're best team speed is puck advancement.

"I'm not pointing fingers at any individual. I'm talking about it as an overall team aspect," continued Sutter, who has not publicly singled out players during his tenure.

"We're all responsible. I'm responsible. I'm the head coach. My job is to try and get them through it, get them to understand.

"They're all great guys and you hate to see them fail. You care deeply about your players."

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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