Brent Sutter: The Bell Tolls

 

Last December Darryl Sutter was shown the door. In less than a week his brother Brent might be on his way out too.

After three seasons of playoff-less hockey, the disgruntled bench boss of the Calgary Flames might take the fall for the team’s recent poor performance.

It is fair? Was he given good enough tools to work with? Maybe not.

Was his message simply not getting through? Debatable.

The truth is, Sutter has failed in getting this team into the playoffs on three separate occasions with back-to-back 10th place finishes and now what looks to be possibly an 11th place finish.

Looking back on his time with the Flames you can debate that he wasn’t in total control of his team when his brother was the GM and there was clearly a rift between the siblings making everyone under the Saddledome roof a little uncomfortable.

Then, when Darryl was let go, you saw the Flames loosen up and go on a terrific run to almost sneak into the playoffs last season, only to come up just short yet again.

So, you enter the current season with the mindset that if they play like they did in the second half of last season, things will be alright and Sutter’s methods must be working.

However, that did not happen and the same inconsistencies remained. You didn’t know which team would show up on a nightly basis and it resulted in a team that meandered on the bubble of a playoff spot for a better part of the season, only to fall short once again.

A record of 116-90-38 in nearly three full seasons behind the bench. Not horrible by any stretch of the imagination.  But, then again, not superb by any means either.

It might be just time for a change. 

Brent is not Darryl. To compare the two, Darryl was given a lot less skilled team back in 2004, yet managed to get them into the playoffs.  Is Brent possibly not made out for the professional ranks? He is a great junior coach – there is no doubt of that. But what has he really done at the professional level? Two playoff appearances in five seasons and two first round exits with very talented New Jersey teams. Now, three straight seasons with the Flames and no playoffs. The parts are not all here in Calgary, but I think he had enough to work with to make them a playoff team. That’s what great coaches do, and Brent might not be a great NHL coach.

I’m not saying all the blame should fall on Brent as the players deserve a lot of blame and (former) upper management deserves some too for handcuffing the team with certain contracts.

But change must occur with this team and the logical first step is a change behind the bench – deserving or not. With his contract set to expire on June 30th, the appropriate thing to do would be to let him go next week. The sooner the better, so Feaster can start looking for another coach and heading in a new direction.

It’s going to be an off-season of change in Flames country (or at least it better be) and it starts with a new coach, a new philosophy, and a new hope.

Thanks Brent, but the bell tolls for thee. 

 

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