Oilers taking Sutter for a test drive?
Team Canada GM Lowe could hire coach as Edmonton’s bench boss
By JIM MATHESON, edmontonjournal.com
April 15, 2012
Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter speaks to the media at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta Tuesday, April 10, 2012.
Photograph by: Stuart Gradon , Calgary Herald
EDMONTON - Should we read anything into Brent Sutter working together with Kevin Lowe on Canada’s world hockey championship team?
A test drive to see if Sutter could be the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers? Hey, anything’s possible with Tom Renney, a good man and a very good coach, having a job as the Oilers coach but not a new contract, and the longer this drags out which, if it goes to the worlds in Helsinki, will not be fair to him.
Lowe, Oilers team president, who doubles as general manager of Canada’s team in Helsinki, with the tournament starting May 4, just brought aboard the former Calgary Flames head coach. OK, Hockey Canada had a big say, too, with Sutter’s track record as world junior team coach.
All I know is Lowe played with Sutter on the 1984 Canada Cup winning team.
Sutter and Lowe will be working fairly closely with Canada’s world team, which will give Lowe a first-hand look at how Sutter operates as a coach. Sutter and Oilers GM Steve Tambellini have a short history with the New York Islanders in 1980-81, but both played junior with Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League. Albeit, not overlapping, but with the same franchise.
Did we say that Sutter is also the owner of the Red Deer Rebels, the same team Oilers rookie centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played on? And that he was RNH’s staunchest fan before the 2011 draft when people were going to him for scouting reports on the kid before the Oilers picked first?
Did we say that Sutter’s older brother, Duane, works for the Oilers as a pro scout?
Personally, I think Renney should be back as coach. If his mandate was to develop young players, he did that along with Ralph Krueger, Steve Smith, Kelly Buchberger and Fred Chabot, the goalie coach. If his mandate was to make the special teams better, the coaches did that in spades. Did they win enough? Obviously not. They finished 29th overall.
But Renney is a good coach, communicates well and the players like and respect him.
However, how long should Renney realistically have to wait before his employers decide if they want him back, along with his coaching staff?
I can see waiting a couple of weeks, so Renney gets some time to refresh after the long regular-season grind. And he also has some health issues that need taking care of, but he absolutely shouldn’t have to wait until after the world championship ends in the third week of May to find out if he’s returning with the Oilers.
If I’m Renney, I’m on the phone to Tambellini, who is attending the world under-18 championship in the Czech Republic with chief scout Stu MacGregor. I’d be telling him not to let this drag on.
He should have an answer immediately after the tournament, or at least a sit down. Renney deserves that.
The Oilers can’t let this coaching situation fester. They have to make up their mind. I’m not even sure why Renney should have to lay out his game plan for the future in a meeting with Tambellini. Surely, they’ve had lots of time to discuss those sorts of things during this past season, haven’t they?
I think Renney will want a two-year contract, or a contract extension as long as Tambellini will be getting one. Nothing been announced on Tambellini, but as he said about his situation, “I feel very comfortable.” I can’t see Renney accepting a one-year offer from the Oilers, if they want to keep him and I think they should. If the Oilers gave Ales Hemsky a two-year contract, why should Renney take a one-year deal?
As for Sutter, he’s not angling for any NHL job. That’s not his style.
“I don’t want to sit here and say I’ll be coaching in the National Hockey League next season,” said Sutter, who coached two years with the New Jersey Devils, then left the team to be closer to his family in Alberta, and three with the Flames.
“Because that would mean somebody would lose their job. I don’t want to see any of the other 29 coaches lose their jobs. That’s not fair.”
Sutter left the Devils because his family was back in Alberta and he missed them.
“I don’t regret the decision I made (to leave New Jersey) one bit. I really thought Darryl (his brother) was going to coach the Flames. Then six days later I got a call,” he said.
Sutter wouldn’t speculate if he would take a job anywhere outside of his home province now that his kids are older.
On the day after he was let go by the Flames, Sutter was up at the crack of dawn to work on his farm. It’s the end of calving season.
“I had a hired hand sleeping in the barn, but I told him to go home. I’d worry about the chores. I didn’t know it would be snowing. That’s hard on the calves, you have to worry about their health,” said Sutter.
Sutter, as it turned out, was out of work for a day, getting the Hockey Canada gig. His health’s fine, thank you.
There was much talk that Sutter and Flames GM Jay Feaster had “philosophical differences,” which would lead you to believe he wanted the roster to go young and Feaster didn’t. But Sutter categorically denied that.
He doesn’t know if they want to go in a rebuild like the Oilers, but he does know that Feaster worked hard to get some kids into his lineup last year.
But, banging your head against the wall, trying to get into eighth place year after year is draining. Just ask former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish in his last few years here. Sutter doesn’t say it in so many words, but he was a little tired. Like MacT.
“I had three years there. You’re right, that it’s a hard thing (squeezing into the playoffs). Jay should be able to bring in his own guy,” said Sutter, who was there as brother Darryl Sutter’s hire before Darryl was ousted as general manager and Feaster, his right-hand man, took over.
Former Flame Lanny McDonald didn’t stickhandle on the Fan 960 Radio in Calgary.
He said goalie Miikka Kiprusoff “masked everything that was wrong with the Flames.
“They’re too old, too slow to get the job done.”
He said they should certainly be moving Jarome Iginla, who has paid his dues in Calgary as “the ultimate leader.”
He said the Flames should have moved centre Olli Jokinen, defencemen Cory Sarich and Scott Hannan at the trade deadline because all three are unrestricted free agents and can walk away with no return July 1. As for Sarich and Hannan, NHL teams are always searching for veteran blue-liners to help in the playoffs.
“Jay and I never had a discussion about a rebuild, just getting more young players into the lineup. The word rebuild, though. Never used,” said Sutter, who knows you have to be awful and lucky to get the first pick in the draft three years in a row — à la the Oilers.
“There’s two different scenarios. the one in Edmonton and the one in Calgary. The Oilers have been able to bring elite players into the lineup — Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, Jordan Eberle. They’re immediately NHL players. The Flames have gone about it differently. That doesn’t say one is the right way or the wrong way.”
Indeed, the Oilers finished 16 points back of the Flames this season.
Sutter makes no bones about how good Kiprusoff is.
“He wins you games because of his performance, no question,” said Sutter.
Sutter loved the influx of kids (due to injuries) this season, even if they were learning on the job. He’s a big fan of Sven Baertschi, who had three goals in an emergency call-up from the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. He says he’ll be on the Flames next season and will be a very good NHLer for some time.
“Our best hockey was when we had youth in the lineup. Brings different elements ... youth brings life to the older players. This league is so fast now, it’s a speed game. Jay and I are on the same page there,” said Sutter.
But Feaster gets his marching orders from the Flames brass.
Do they want to tear it down like the Oilers? Doesn’t appear to be that way. Sounds like changing on the fly.
As for Iginla, who’ll one day be in the Hall of Fame, he deserves to know which way the Flames are going. He has to agree to a trade.
I know one thing: the Dallas Stars would take him in a heartbeat. He was traded for Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk.
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