April 13, 2012
Sutter's solutions didn't jive for Flames
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - It's hard to argue with the decision to let go of a coach whose team missed the playoffs the last three years.
The organization is seeking change, Flames fans want blood and Brent Sutter is easy chum to throw overboard.
What should concern Flames fans is the fact Flames GM Jay Feaster and Sutter "mutually" decided to part ways over their philosophical differences when it comes to the direction the club should take from here.
Sutter is a man of principle who has strong thoughts on what the team's problems are both on and off the ice.
As a former captain, two-time Stanley Cup winner and owner of a impressive coaching resume at every level, nobody in hockey was better qualified to assess the Flames team he spent three years with.
He knows the internal conflicts and the personality clashes (every team has them) and has a theory on the best way to resolve them now that the team is looking to make big changes. He has thoughts on which players impede the club's ability to succeed moving forward and which ones the franchise should be built around.
Having spent the last two years sharing an extremely close relationship with Feaster, Sutter has openly shared his views, which he reiterated in very frank terms during exit meetings.
Clearly, Feaster and the owners are uncomfortable with the path Sutter would take, prompting their split Thursday.
Does that mean the organization isn't ready to make the tough decisions necessary to break this fruitless cake-and-eat-it-too cycle that has them trying to rebuild while also chasing playoff spots?
Time will tell.
What we do know is Sutter would have been happy to oversee a rebuild -- he said as much Monday.
After Sutter and Feaster came to their conclusion early Thursday, Sutter cleared out his office and headed straight to the airport to pick up his son Brandon, who was returning from his fourth season in Carolina. They went straight to the new offices of the Red Deer Rebels, which Sutter owns, before heading to the family home outside Sylvan Lake.
Sutter respectfully requested his thoughts be kept out of the paper today (he'll talk publicly next week,) but it's important to note he refuses to speak ill of the organization he cared so deeply about. He's at peace.
Talk started on Hockey Night in Canada's Hotstove last month that Sutter could be the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers flared soon after the announcement yesterday and will get louder.
He should and will coach again in the NHL.
Meanwhile, the Flames will get to work on finding their eighth coach in the last 11 years.
The most refreshing news to come out of Thursday's media availability with Feaster was his insistence he won't seek counsel from the players in any way.
"Absolutely, positively not," said Feaster.
"Management will manage. Players play."
And the Calgary coaching carousel will continue to turn.
"I failed to provide the right players and chemistry here," said Feaster, who inherited Sutter from Darryl Sutter and now gets to put "his" guy in place.
"This isn't about Brent not getting the message through."
Given how thin the Flames organization is, Sutter deserved plenty of credit for having his players buy into the belief they could stay in the playoff race as along as they did.
The players liked and respected him, and appreciated the fact he's a good communicator and teacher.
He leaves with a 118-90-38 record, a bright coaching future and a virtual guarantee that anywhere else he goes will have a better short-term future than the Flames.
The decision to part ways makes sense for both parties, but it's hard to believe Sutter didn't get the better end of the deal as things in Calgary are destined to get worse before they get better.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada