Sutter fits Team Canada criteria: Lowe
TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Gentlemen, start your rumour mills.
Kevin Lowe has hired Brent Sutter as head coach.
Less than 24 hours after the mutual agreement between Sutter and Jay Feaster to not go forward together with the Calgary Flames, Team Canada general manager Lowe announced he’d hired Sutter to coach Team Canada at the world championships next month in Helsinki, Finland.
“Well, he’s been unemployed for some time so we thought he’d be getting hungry,” laughed Lowe.
But seriously, folks …
Does this move by the president of hockey opperations for the Oilers — which, under GM Steve Tambellini, will wait until much closer to the end of their contracts on June 30 to decide the future of the coaching staff — mean the team will look at Sutter to replace Tom Renney after coaching Jordan Eberle, Ryan-Nugent-Hopkins and Devan Dubnyk at the Worlds?
You have to figure part of Tambellini’s reason for not deciding on Renney’s future sooner than later is to wait and find out just who might be available after the first couple of rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Lowe said all he can do is explain the timeline.
“Clearly, Brent was asked to take on the world championship team before he was let go by the Flames.
“Everybody knows he’s a good head coach. Who knows what his ambitions are? First and foremost, this is about winning the world championship gold medal.”
Lowe endorsed Tambellini’s decision to take his time.
“I’m sure the fans would like to know and the media would like to know. But it makes sense to take time and make the decision.”
It may be like Tambellini making it quite clear that, unlike the previous two years picking Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins first overall, this time he’ll be entertaining, even encouraging, offers for the No. 1 pick, which everybody assumes will be Nail Yakupov.
“Do I really think Tamby will get an offer better than the player we’d pick No. 1? No. I’d be shocked. But it might be intriguing to see what the packages might be,” said Lowe.
Lowe said he and Steve Yzerman’s Olympic management team made their coaching list a couple of weeks back.
The criteria was to pick a head coach and associate coaches who would fit as coaches of the Sochi 2012 Olympic team. When the smoke had cleared from the playoff picture Lindy Ruff, who won Canada’s most recent world gold medal in 2009, was at the top of the list.
Sutter was the next name on the list and is about to follow Ken Hitchcock and Craig MacTavish as the third straight unemployed coach of Team Canada at the Worlds.
“After we found out Lindy couldn’t make it, we went on to Brent. I called him Thursday morning to offer him the position. We had a long conversation,” said Lowe.
“He told me he was just about to go in and visit Jay Feaster and didn’t want to go into any details.
“Considering what came out of that meeting, we decided we’d better hold off the announcement for a day.
“It was an eventful 24 hours for him,” he said of the coach who will hold a press conference Monday in Calgary.
“I joked with him that there’s really going to be a lot of pressure on him. He’s undefeated as a coach for Canada,” laughed Lowe.
Sutter, who will have Guy Boucher of Tampa Bay and Kirk Muller of Carolina as his assistants, has coached Canada at international competitions on three previous occasions, going undefeated to win the world junior in 2005 and 2006 and leading Canada to a 7-0-1 record at the 2006 Canada-Russia Super Series, which featured the top junior players from the two countries.
Sutter also represented Canada as a player on four occasions, at the 1986 World Championship and at the 1984, 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups. Lowe played with him on that ‘84 team.
One of the cool things involved here is that Sutter will finally get a chance to coach Nugent-Hopkins.
Sutter picked RNH in the bantam draft for the Red Deer Rebels team he owns and operates, but was coaching the Flames for RNH’s two seasons with the WHL club.
“I’m sure he knows all about him,” said Lowe.
“He’s hands-on with his junior hockey team.”
Sutter will also be reunited with his former Red Deer Rebels star Dion Phaneuf, who was shipped out by the Flames during his tenure, and current Flame Jay Bouwmeester.
It’s going to be the most interesting world championship for Canada since the lockout edition of the team.
|Brent Sutter speaks to the media at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., April 10, 2012. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)