April 17, 2012
Sutter's stock rising
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Never mind Brent Sutter’s stint at the world hockey championship being an audition of sorts for the Edmonton Oilers head coaching gig. It’s also a chance for Hockey Canada to see if he’s Olympic material.
That’s how well-respected he is in hockey circles.
Yet the Calgary Flames couldn’t see value in keeping around the smartest hockey mind they had on staff.
Sad thing is, all they had to do was ask and he might have taken on another role within the organization.
“After coaching here for three years, you have a good feel and understanding of what needs to be done, and how it needs to be done and if they would have wanted me back in a different capacity — whatever it may be — I certainly would have looked at it,” Sutter said Monday at his official unveiling as Team Canada’s coach for next month’s world championships.
“When you’re in the trenches, you see it first-hand.”
Canada GM Kevin Lowe revealed Monday Sutter was on the short list to head up Canada’s Olympic team in 2010 — a job that eventually went to Mike Babcock.
And while Babcock and assistant coach Ken Hitchcock will undoubtedly get first crack at returning if NHLers are part of Sochi 2014, Sutter could also be in the mix if things go well in Sweden/Finland May 4–20.
“Anytime someone goes over to the worlds and has success, that thought is always there,” confirmed Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, who said Sutter will be counted on heavily to improve Canada’s world rank of fourth.
“As (GM) Steve Yzerman alluded to, we’re using these world championships this year and next year to be best prepared for 2014 in Sochi, provided the NHL players go — he fits that criteria,” added Lowe of Sutter.
“With Brent’s history playing and coaching for Canada, I know what he represents. I know the type of person he is.”
The Flames do, too, but the decision was made by GM Jay Feaster to purge the Flames system of all things Sutter, as part of what had better be sweeping changes if the culture is to change.
“They made the decision to go in a different direction, and Jay wanted to put a new person in place,” clarified Sutter of the decision made Thursday morning, hours after the coach fielded his first call from Hockey Canada.
“I made the decision that morning that even if I was offered an extension, I wasn’t going to accept it. It was a mutual decision.”
Sutter refused to get into details, despite the perception he felt the team needed to make the tough decisions necessary to start rebuilding and Feaster disagreed.
“There are things you discuss with your general manager, and you aren’t going to agree on all of it,” said Sutter, whose stock clearly hasn’t depreciated with his departure.
“There are principles and values I have for what it takes to succeed. It’s something Jay and I discussed at times. Some of the path he saw was different from what I felt. There are things you want to see internally. It begins in the room and makes its way onto the ice,” Sutter said.
“There are things I addressed at certain times with the organization over three years. Some things are a lot deeper than the coach, and that’s where you need that support from above.”
Sutter hammered home to Feaster the importance of chasing division titles instead of eighth place.
Yet he chose not to dish dirt and expressed disappointment in the theory floated in this space that his new gig has him positioned to replace Tom Renney in Edmonton.
“The Oilers have a head coach and personally, I hope he is the guy still coaching their team next year,” Sutter said.
“I’m not privy to any of that. Kevin’s job is to make a decision on a head coach (for Team Canada). They talked to Lindy (Ruff), and for personal reasons, he couldn’t do it. They came to me, and I was completely honoured and thrilled to have that opportunity. There is nothing with the Edmonton situation at all. I’m here to coach the world championship team, and Kevin is here to manage it.”
And whether they’ll work well beyond that depends largely on how the relationship — and Team Canada — blossoms overseas.
On Twitter: @ericfrancis
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on Hockey Night in Canada.