Why Brent Sutter could be the right coach


Just to follow up on Two-Line Pass’ recent entry about how Flames fans should feel fortunate that the Sutter brother No. 5 has agreed to pace behind the Calgary bench, let’s look at the major reason why Brent could be the right man for the job.

Initially, there wasn’t a whole lot of analysis about Brent’s coaching virtues beyond the highlighting of his impressive resume as a junior boss and the fact he has a last name that carries a lot of weight in this part of the hockey world. The fact that Flames general manager Darryl Sutter barely acknowledged the fact he and his newest employee had shared the same dinner table as youngsters only served to whet the media and public fascination with the bloodlines angle.

But once you get by the common DNA business and after you forget about the ruffled feathers in New Jersey about the Viking two-step that led to Brent being the Flames coach in the first place, you’re left with this possibility if you’re a Calgary supporter – the man known as Pup just might be the rump-kicker and name-taker to take the talented but flawed Flames out of their comfort zone and beyond the first round.

Of course, Mike Keenan was supposed to be that guy too but anyone who had dealt with Moustachioed Mike in his true tyrannical days will tell you the Keenan who called the shots in Calgary was clearly de-ironized. Keenan may still have had the reputation, but the intimidation factor was long gone.

Brent Sutter, on the other hand, still gives the impression of a coach not to be trifled with. Ask Jamie Langenbrunner, who publicly incurred Sutter’s wrath this past season. Ask Patrik Elias, the Devils’ best unmasked player, who was stripped of the captaincy. Ask Dion Phaneuf, who possesses firsthand knowledge of Sutter’s propensity for a special brand of tough love.

Years ago, Sutter was the major-domo for the Red Deer Rebels and Phaneuf was a member of the Western Hockey League club. One night, after a Red Deer loss to the Calgary Hitmen, Sutter was approached by the media and asked to explain the Rebels’ sub-par performance.

“Ask the superstar defenceman,” he retorted.

Just in case there was any doubt about his meaning, Sutter marched into the visitors’ dressing at the Saddledome and fished out a sheepish Phaneuf, who was left address the media jackals as best he could.

Now there’s no denying that some of tactics that worked with insecure teenagers may fail miserably when attempted on multi-millionaire professionals, but a well-executed glare, the right combination of nasty words and the timely cracking of the whip can be an effective coaching weapon at any level, especially when the peons see that the disciplinarian doesn’t play favourites. And there’s definitely a school of thought – some of the students of that school have stalls in the Flames dressing room – that some of Calgary’s big-name players are in need of a little square-toed boot motivation.

In addition to Phaneuf’s career development going into wobble mode in 2008-09, the usually above-reproach Jarome Iginla was questioned on his defensive habits. And won’t it be interesting to see what happens the first time the new head coach tosses a “Well, that’s not how Marty Brodeur does it” in Miikka Kiprusoff’s direction?

If the scared-straight tactics work even just a little, that could well be all the boost the Flames need to capture the pennant in a very winnable Northwest Division.