Sutter steps down as Flames coach
Sutter and Playfair
7/12/2006 4:39:44 PM
CALGARY (CP) - Pulling back from coaching may be harder on Darryl Sutter than he admits.
At a news conference confirming longtime assistant Jim Playfair will take over the Flames head coaching duties, Sutter had a hard time Wednesday letting the new guy even finish his own answers.
''Don't overlook the fact that it's about the team and there's a time for your veterans, your skilled players and your top players to assume responsibility,'' said Sutter, 47, who will focus on the general manager duties he added in 2003.
''It's not about one person or a spotlight, it's about the whole organization taking control.''
Sutter concedes that he'll be quick to point out any problems he sees on the ice. Playfair says he's under no illusion that there won't be conflict, but adds that's a good thing as the club focuses on capturing a Stanley Cup.
''Absolutely we'll butt heads: that's part of the deal,'' said Playfair, who was touted as a potential head coach for the Flames before Sutter was hired in 2002.
''It's why and how you get better,'' said the 42-year-old, who will take over a much better team than when he joined Sutter's staff after leading Calgary's AHL affiliate for three years.
''You have to have those challenges,'' said Playfair. ''It's never personal. The bottom line is it's about finding ways to get better. It's not an emotional issue, it's more about a competitive issue.''
Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr welcomed the news of the coaching change.
''Jim is familiar with a lot of the players that are currently on our team,'' said Regehr, who was attending the NHLPA meetings in Whistler, B.C. ''It will be a good fit. I also think Darryl was having a hard time finding all the time he needs to do both jobs the way he was happy with. Now he's having a chance to move upstairs it will be good for him to just focus on the general manager position.''
Sutter was often accused of having a sour deposition that sometimes seeped into the Flames dressing room. Regehr smiled with asked if Playfair will bring a lighter feeling behind the bench.
''A change at the head coaching position always makes a big difference around the dressing room and the entire hockey team,'' he said. ''A lot of the players are very comfortable with Jim Playfair. I think we've had a chance to see what kind of job he can do as an assistant. I think he'll do a very good one as a head guy.''
Sutter says the plan has always been to have Playfair take over.
''It's the absolute natural progression of a good club,'' said Sutter. ''Our team continues to get better and this is the culmination of what we've done this summer to improve our hockey club.''
The Flames recently added star winger Alex Tanguay to the lineup, a much-needed boost to an offence that was 27th in the league last season. Vezina goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and captain Jarome Iginla remain signed for two more seasons and many believe the Flames must capitalize on that strength now.
Over the last 3½ years, Sutter has put his stamp on this organization and made the Flames a respected NHL force after years of missing the playoffs. He took Calgary to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 and compiled a 107-73-26 record behind the Calgary bench.
Sutter says he found times last season when the toll of both jobs was too much. That's despite amassing a 46-25-11 record: good enough for third place in the Western Conference before the Flames were eliminated in seven games in the first round of playoffs by Anaheim.
''As a general manager you expect a lot out of your head coach and your coaching staff,'' said Sutter. ''There (were) times I felt I should have and could have done a better job. But there's just not enough days in the week and hours in the day.''
Sutter realizes there was a lot of speculation that he would hand the reins over to his bother Brent, who has coached the Canadian national junior team to back-to-back world championships.
''All my brothers were very good candidates, but at the end of the day blood is thicker than business,'' said Sutter, adding that it wouldn't have been right to hire older brother Brian either.
''I don't know if any of you have older brothers, but the younger brother should never be the older brother's boss,'' he said. ''In the end, It's probably not a successful model. The model of building from within and growing from within is the one that works.''
Veteran coach Wayne Fleming joins the Flames as an assistant coach, bringing with him years of experience with the Canadian national team as well as stops with the New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers.
''I think he's qualified as a head coach,'' said Sutter. ''When you've been coached or been on staff that's had success on international teams or World Cup teams, you've learned how to deal with the top players. That's really important for our team.''
Fleming said he was attracted by the strength of the Flames and the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.
''The future is now as far as the Calgary Flames are concerned,'' said Fleming, 56. ''It's not a rebuilding program. It's more of an assimilation of young talent with the proven veteran talent.''