Perhaps the morning after an uncharacteristic loose-checking free-for-all in the playoffs wasn’t the most ideal time to talk about the job Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter has done.
But the Jack Adams finalist’s fingerprints have been all over this team in a season that transformed them from playoff spectator to Stanley Cup hopeful.
Because of the foundation the 63-year-old bench boss put in place, and the messaging he has used to get every member of the Calgary Flames organization to buy in, Sutter was officially named a finalist for the NHL award given to the coach who has contributed most to his team’s success.
There’s little doubt that definition applies most to Sutter, although both Andrew Brunette of the Florida Panthers and Gerard Gallant of the New York Rangers had strong seasons as well.
Sutter said on Thursday he’d prefer one of the other guys wins it.
“It’s not the best coach, first off. If the coach is voted on the best coach every year, you’d see quite a bit different list the last 15 years,” Sutter said. “I don’t need that on my resume. Some guys do. I’d rather see young guys win it, quite honest. Or guys that have maybe got a raw deal somewhere, like a guy like Gerard – got a raw deal in Florida, got a raw deal in Vegas.
“If I had a vote, I know who I’d vote for.”
Flames thriving under Sutter Standard
Returning to coach the Calgary Flames for a second time last season, he helped the team make a massive jump – the biggest of any NHL franchise from season to season.
They missed the playoffs in 2020-21 with a 26-27-3 record (a .491 winning percentage) but won the Pacific Division with one of the best records in the league this year at 50-21-11 (.677).
Among the most notable ‘Sutter Standard’ metrics, they went from 16th in the league (2.86 GAA) to third in the NHL with a 2.51 GAA that ranked third best in the league for a trophy Sutter would prefer over the Jack Adams.
“I’d take the Jennings over that any time,” said Sutter, who was third in the Jack Adams voting in 2004 after taking the Flames to the Cup final. “It means your team’s a playoff team.”
Unfinished business for Sutter and Flames
The Calgary Flames are a playoff team. They’re a playoff team with one win under their belt in the second round following a 9-6 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite finishing sixth in regular-season league scoring with 3.55 goals-per-game, the checking side of things is the Flames’ foundation.
That’s what made the timing of Thursday’s announcement such a juxtaposition. You can bet Sutter is re-enforcing his standards ahead of Game 2 on Friday night. The unfinished business from 2004 and recent struggles of the Flames franchise is what brought him back.
“The reason I came back is I watched the team lots. I watched the Oilers and Calgary lots. I thought that the Flames were falling behind in terms of what was going on in the division and going on in the league,” Sutter said Thursday. “That was the biggest reason I came back.”
The players know what they have in him.
“From the time Darryl came in, the summer was really huge and something we pushed. We need to prepare to play deep and prepare to play a long season and go in the playoffs. The structure and the way he wanted (us to play), he could really put a stamp on it when you have a full training camp and you have the summer,” said goaltender Jacob Markstrom. “I thought he’s done a great job with that.”