As the Flames woes continue, and the slide in the standings more evident everday, the fan’s anger typically falls on the desk of Flames GM Darryl Sutter. The once popular slogan of “In Sutter we trust” has been replaced with a “Fire Sutter” watch. However, are fans fixated on firing the right Sutter? Brent Sutter came to Calgary with great fan fare and great expectations. Having set records in a very successful New Jersey system, his hire was seen as the final Championship piece for the Flames after the then deemed unsuccessful tenure of Mike Keenan. Fast forward to today, and Brent Sutter sits at a combined record of 48 wins and 43 losses with a winning percentage of less than .500 (wins versus games played). Yet a .54 winning percentage couldn’t save Mike Keenan’s job, nor was a .524 enough to give Jim Playfair one more year. Clearly, the Sutter regime has failed to meet expectations, so it begs the question does Brent Sutter have control of this team?
Perhaps there is no more telling sign than the game against the New Jersey Devils. The first return for Brent Sutter to a home that he left with a degree of animosity, and to some disparaging comments was met with a flat effort. A game that was called a “must win” by more than one Flame player, saw the Flames play a generally uninspired game. I recall a game in December of 2007, where Mike Keenan was still the leader of the troops. Searching for his 600th win, the Flames won a 5-3 road game in St. Louis, and Captain Jarome Iginla presented Keenan with the game puck. Back in his old stomping grounds of Florida, the Flames rallied for a 2-1 win for Keenan, with reports the players took the coach out for dinner afterword.
People can, and always have, questioned the methods of “Iron Mike” Keenan, but little question remains that he had the control of the team. Brent Sutter was brought in, not because Keenan failed in that area, but because he failed in the defensive area. Perhaps too much focus was given to the on ice versus the off ice?
So the question is presented, how much longer should Brent Sutter remain Head coach of the Calgary Flames if he doesn’t have control of the room? Jim Playfair was thought of to be too inexperienced to handle a veteran laden NHL team like the Flames. Perhaps the time is now to see if Playfair has learned enough to be Head coach of the Calgary Flames for the longer term.
It brings us back to the original question: Do Fans want to Fire the Right Sutter? Both is probably the right answer, but it would appear Brent should be first to go.