Firefighting coach Daryl Sutter after 3 seasons: What went wrong and what’s next

Firefighting coach Daryl Sutter after 3 seasons: What went wrong and what’s next

Written by Pierre Lebrun, Eric Duhacek and Julien Mackenzie

Calgary announced Monday that the Flames have fired head coach Darrell Sutter after his second stint with the organization. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Sutter’s firing comes after the team failed to reach the playoffs this season and finished 37-28-17.
  • He had a two-year extension worth about $4 million a year set to start next season. The Flames still owe Sutter that money.
  • Calgary is already looking for a general manager after mutually agreeing to part ways with Brad Treliving on April 17.

the athleteInstant Analysis:

What happened?

Sutter is arguably the most polarizing figure in Flame’s history. Sutter had two years left on his contract, so it took a huge leap of confidence for owner Murray Edwards, who was one of his biggest supporters, to sign the resolution costing Sutter’s termination.

Sutter’s tough love approach worked for some players, but not others. And not with the important people in the future. Sutter’s style has always been to keep the throttle down, even when things were going well; Then calm down a bit when that doesn’t happen. It was those mixed messages that baffled and frustrated other players, including two of last summer’s highest-priced additions: Nazim Qadri (free agent signing) and Jonathan Huberdeau (trade). Both of them, by the standards of the previous season, had terrible years. The organization was committed to them for another six to eight years.

Moreover, three of the players entering the final years of their contracts – Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Noah Hanifen – were all noncommittal about their futures during exit meetings. What they said publicly was that they wanted to win and they wanted to see the direction the organization headed in before they committed to staying. The underlying message was clear: If Sutter continues behind the bench, they should probably run to the exits ASAP. That created a dilemma for the Flames’ new head of hockey operations, Don Maloney. – Duhachik

What after the flames?

When Maloney is put on the job, after Treliving and the organization decide to part ways, he makes his first job application taking a deep dive into what went wrong last season and then working out how to fix it. Maloney sat in on player interviews, but followed that up by talking to staff at all levels over the past two weeks.

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It all points to two possible paths forward, one with Sutter as coach and one with someone new behind the bench. If Sutter stays, chances are, many key players will leave. If Sutter leaves, chances are, some may decide to stay after all. Thus, that indicates a clear course of action, the first step of which was implemented on Monday.

To date, there are two openings in Calgary: one for a general manager and one for a head coach. The good news is that whoever Maloney hires to be the Flames’ next general manager will have the opportunity to hire their own coach and not have to tinker with picking someone else.

It was always the logical logical conclusion. But it was never certain that they would do the sensibly logical thing until it actually happened. – Duhachik

Souter’s legacy in Calgary

Sutter’s presence around the team, in light of their disappointing season, was growing more and more unsettling. We learned of Treliving’s future as he decided to leave the organization with his contract. But nothing about Sutter. He was spotted at AHL games—the Flames’ minor league affiliate is the top seed in the league—without any news. We knew about future coaches like Rick Bowness and Todd McClellan, bench bosses who were in charge of playoff teams. And with the Flames’ GM research done, it was impossible to remove Sutter from that process.

Today’s news means they run it without any influence from him. It also meant that players’ voices were heard loud and clear.

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Maloney revealed that he interviewed players, coached staff and agents, and even had a lengthy discussion with Sutter before making his decision. Complaints emerged that players were unhappy with the past year. It’s pretty obvious given the frustrating season they’ve had and the underwhelming stats for players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm. The Flames needed a newer sound for their players.

In the end, Sutter’s legacy as a coach will be very complex. It’s a winner. He took the Flames to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, one game and maybe a goal or two away from winning it all. He has two Stanley Cups to his name during his time in Los Angeles. But his button-pushing style was clearly out of style with today’s player. The Flames will need a replacement who can speak to these players and unleash the success they haven’t been able to achieve this year. – Mackenzie

background story

Sutter rejoined the Flames during the 2020-21 season and led the team to a 50-21-11 record and the Pacific Division title the following season. The Edmonton Oilers eliminated the Flames in the second round of the 2022 playoffs, and the combination of the offseason brought several changes to the team’s roster.

Johnny Goudreau left free agency and Matthew Tkachuk was traded to the Florida Panthers for McKenzie Wiegard and Jonathan Huberdeau. Calgary signed Nazim Qadri to a seven-year, $49 million deal, boosting expectations for another strong Flames season that didn’t go as expected.

Sutter leaves Calgary with a 102-63-28 record for his second stint with the team. The first came for parts of three seasons from 2003 to 2006 and included the Flames who reached the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, where the team lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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what are they saying

“On behalf of ownership and all Calgary Flames fans, we would like to thank Darrell for his cumulative years of service to the Calgary Flames team and the community at large,” team president John Bean said in a statement.

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(Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

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