Does the hiring of Brent Sutter really require another blog?
Probably not. I mean, this is one of those "worst-kept secrets" that gets attached with any story being leaked these days.
But the hiring of Brent Sutter is gonna get a blog.
Because this may go down as one of the most important moves Darryl Sutter has made during his tenure with the Calgary Flames. It's the one thing that's been missing since Darryl stepped down after the 05-06 season. At the time he said he was stepping down so that he could be replaced by someone who was better than him.
Playfair couldn't fill the shoes. And Mike Keenan, well, he certainly didn't fill anyone's shoes either.
And so here the Calgary Flames sit. A world-class roster from the net out. Yeah, there's a couple holes here and there. They could probably use a little upgrade on the defensive personnel, and a tweak in the top 6 forwards (2nd Line RW), but other than that, the Flames remain a contender year in, year out.
The problem was no one seemed to be able to re-institute the consistency that helped the Flames reach the Finals in 03-04.
Brent Sutter would have been the right hire 2 years ago when Sutter brought in Keenan. We don't really know if the brother's even talked at that point in time, but it would have been a good move then. Now, with two successful years under his belt in New Jersey, Brent brings an even better resume to the table.
Many will talk about the Flames troubles in getting out of the first round. And, believe me, that's an issue. Many will then point to the fact that Brent's Devil's were first-round losers in each of his 2 seasons. This is a valid issue, but I prefer to look at this instead.
1. Had Tim Gleason not gone Superman, saving that puck in game 7 that was on its way out of the zone then feathered the saucer pass over to the side-boards to set up the tying goal (under-rated play of the year), followed by Marty Brodeur letting in a major softy to Eric Staal. The Devils would have likely been on to the second round against the Capitals. Carolina was the hottest team in the NHL coming in to the playoffs and the Devils met them with every push. The Canes were lucky to get by the Devils.
2. Brent went in to New Jersey and completely transformed a team that has long been known for playing vicious trap D. They became an offensive threat and a puck-pressure team. They still played terrific team D despite having a group of guys who have bounced around and are nothing more than journeyman. Hard to believe that the anchor of the D is Paul Martin, whom, just a few years back, was nothing more than a 3rd pair guy. How about Mike Mottau (Flames cast-off during the ugly years), Andy Greene and Johnny Oduya? Yes, it's hardly a who's who of defenseman.
3. Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes. These were their goalies for the majority of the season. They were their goalies when they were playing, arguably, their best hockey. A spare-part defensive rotation and a couple back-ups for 'tenders and these guys are lighting it up? This has to come from somewhere doesn't it?
4. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. Without the emergence of these two forwards, who knows what would have happened to the Devils last season. If there's one thing we already know about Brent Sutter, it's that he knows how to coach the youth. He helped the development of these two guys immensely and the NJ Devils are going to reap the rewards for years to come.
Taking a look at Calgary's roster, here's a couple things that stand out to me.
1. Brent coached both Dion Phaneuf and Jim Vandermeer with the Rebels. Dion is a monumental part of our team, and this is the right move to get his stunted progression back on track. Vandermeer started to come around late last season after Keenan had previously just used him for a little muscle. Brent will allow him to go back to his defensively sound self. And hopefully no more stints on the wing.
2. Dustin Boyd. Brent coached Boyd with the Canadian World Juniors. Boyd was a huge part of that team and played his best hockey of the junior season during that tournament, scoring a number of big goals, throwing a few big hits and playing great defensively.
3. Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross. These guys seem to fit so beautifully into Brent's system play that it's almost as if Darryl knew he was gonna leave NJ for Calgary. I can't wait to see what he does with guys like this, who can grind it up, skate like the wind, and find the back of the net.
And the biggest positive I can think of coming from this hiring...
Accountability. Something Mike Keenan absolutely refused to use. If you think for one second that Brent will let a guy like Todd Bertuzzi float around the ice without backchecking or circling for pucks rather than stop/starting... you're wrong. The Sutter's don't stand for half-assing it, and they'll let you know. On Calgary radio today, they were quoting John Madden with his thoughts on Brent Sutter and that was one of his big things. He said, if you're not doing with you're supposed to be doing, he'll let you know. He'll do it in private, he'll do it in front of the team, he'll do it in front of the media.
Ryan McGill, Dave Lowry and Jamie McClennan join the staff as assistants. I'm very excited to see what Lowry will bring to the table. I really think he's going to be an NHL head coach very soon and we're going to see a lot of positives out of him being on our staff. Hard not to like the hiring of a guy who left it all on the ice every night. As for McGill, I expect he'll take over the Jim Playfair role with the defense. I'm interested to see what he offers and Darryl has had nothing but good things to say about him in the past. And McClennan, well, I'm not exactly super-pumped about this one. I will remain skeptical for a while I'm sure. I liked his attitude as a backup goalie and he will bring a fresh approach, but I have to take a wait and see attitude with him.
This is a positive step forward for the Calgary Flames as a franchise. I won't go as far as to guarantee the team as Stanley Cup contender's or anything like that. But, let's face it, the team's certainly better off today than they were 2 months ago before Keenan was fired.
With several teams on the hunt for head coaches this off-season, the Flames did very, very well. Brent should have been nominated for the Jack Adams this season and probably 2008 as well. Safe to say if this squad can't get past the first round with Sutter behind the bench we could see a major roster shake-down next season.
And, since one sentence in a blog can send our friends from the North into a total tizzy, I'm going to do it again... just for fun.
The Calgary Flames have hired the best "available" head coach in the NHL this off-season. If he's not a top 5 head coach in the league, then he's certainly a top 10.
As for you Edmonton fans who like to stroll over to read the Flames blogs... I'm sure you're busy trying to think of reasons why this isn't a good hire. I'm sure they'll all be well thought out and if I look hard enough, I'll be able to piece together a few sentences amidst all the grammatical and spelling errors. I know why you read our stuff; it's due to the lack of coverage for the Oilers. Yeah, that sucks. It seems your bloggers are as eager to write about Edmonton as UFA's are to sign there!
And finally, on behalf of Pat Quinn's knees, I'd like to extend my best wishes for a mild winter.