CALGARY - In his season-ending remarks, Brent Sutter told reporters he’d like to return as head coach of the Calgary Flames but would insist on some substantial changes.
Two days later, the first substantial change was made.
The Flames announced Thursday afternoon Sutter is finished with the franchise, with the two sides reaching a “mutual agreement” to go separate ways after a third straight season without playoff hockey at the Saddledome.
“One thing I want to make clear is this isn’t about fault or blame or finger-pointing,” Flames GM Jay Feaster said. “We had a good discussion. Brent and I talk a lot. We’ve talked since the end of the season, during the season. I appreciate everything he’s done.
“It isn’t about blame or three years out. As we talked, we decided this is a time to go separate ways.”
Sutter posted a 118-90-38 record in three seasons behind the bench at the Saddledome, although he failed to lead the squad to a playoff berth.
With his contract set to expire at the end of June, the Flames are opting for a new voice. The club also announced assistant coach Dave Lowry will not be offered a new deal, while associate Craig Hartsburg and goalie coach Clint Malarchuk both remain under contract for next season.
Sutter didn’t attend Thursday’s media conference at the Saddledome, making his only public remarks in a statement released by the team.
“After discussions with Jay since the season ended, it was in the best interest of the organization and myself to part ways,” Sutter said. “I wish the Calgary Flames all the best.”
When the Flames were eliminated from the Western Conference playoff picture with two games to go in the regular season, Sutter told reporters he was “totally responsible” for the early exit.
Although Feaster insisted Thursday’s announcement isn’t about blame, the 49-year-old and his sidekick Lowry become the first official casualties of this latest playoff miss.
The Flames have already had four different head coaches since the 2004-05 lockout — Mike Keenan, Jim Playfair and Darryl Sutter are the others — and will welcome another new face sometime soon.
Feaster mentioned Abbotsford Heat skipper Troy Ward as one candidate for the coaching vacancy, while Bob Hartley — who guided the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup parade in 2001 and is now working in Switzerland — is a close friend of the Flames GM and will likely be considered.
Feaster can expect a few voicemails from unemployed coaches, too.
“We will begin immediately our process of compiling candidates for the new head coach,” Feaster said. “We’re not going to limit ourselves.”