May 17, 2012
Renney out, Sutter in?
By WES GILBERTSON, QMI AGENCY
Darryl Sutter is just six wins away from sipping from the Stanley Cup.
Hard to believe, but the news for Calgary Flames fans could get even worse.
Just over a month after clearing out of his office at the Saddledome, Brent Sutter is suddenly the front-runner to become the next head coach of the provincial rival Edmonton Oilers, who officially axed Tom Renney Thursday after weeks of speculation.
While the Battle of Alberta hasn't had the same punch — or as many punch-ups — over the past decade or so, Flames fans are already dreading the idea of the up-and-coming squad from the opposite end of the QEII Highway emerging as a playoff team and eventually a Stanley Cup contender.
Making matters worse, a former Flames skipper will likely be along for the ride.
When his younger brother Brent became unemployed in mid-April, current Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter told reporters “I think (Brent) is a top coach in the National Hockey League, and it may be very well he'll be coaching somewhere else soon, too.”
The smart money says that somewhere else will be Edmonton.
It's certainly not a far-fetched idea, especially when you consider what Sutter's been up to for the past three weeks.
Just days after Sutter and Flames GM Jay Feaster mutually agreed to go separate directions, the 49-year-old accepted an invite from Kevin Lowe to become head coach of Canada's entry at the world hockey championships.
In case you didn't know, Lowe just so happens to be the president of the Oilers.
This isn't exactly six degrees of separation we're talking about. Lowe and Sutter have been hanging out together in Helsinki.
Team Canada made a hasty exit after Thursday's quarterfinal loss to Slovakia, but Sutter has had plenty of time to impress his could-be boss.
It makes sense for both sides.
Sutter, who missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons at the Saddledome, has a reputation for being an effective teacher of young players. The Oilers have a hat-trick of rising star forwards — Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — and the first-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Sutter would like to stay close to home. Rexall Place isn't far for him.
Sutter has time. The Oilers, as of Thursday afternoon, have an opening.
There's been so much smoke, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini was asked about Sutter by name during Thursday's press conference to address Renney's dismissal.
“As far as guys that are candidates, there's going to be a lot of speculation,” Tambellini told reporters in Edmonton. “I know there's been a lot of talk around the world championships and Brent. He's a good coach — there's no doubt about that — but let us go through the process and get the right guy.”
For Feaster, the head coaching search continues. Although there's a growing sentiment that Abbotsford Heat bench boss Troy Ward is the leading candidate, the Flames GM has insisted it's still early, using the analogy he's in the first inning of a baseball game.
Up the road in Edmonton, it might be a home-run.
And Flames fans might not like the outcome.
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson