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Calgary Flames

Jack Adams Win Aside, Sutter Still Has Unfinished Business



Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter gave his old team exactly what it needed at a critical time in its window to win.

And while the 63-year-old bench boss didn’t get the hardware he wanted, he did add the Jack Adams Award – reluctantly – to his resume.

Claiming the coach-of-the-year for the first time, the 63-year-old was virtually announced as the winner by his older brother Brian Sutter as the Edmonton Oilers battled the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the Western Conference final.

In typical Darryl Sutter style, he didn’t have much to say about himself – his least-favourite subject.

“Thanks Brian. I am honoured to be informed by you of this award,” Sutter said of the 1991 Jack Adams winner. “That’s a long time ago. I think back to when he won it and the great job he did, especially being a young NHL head coach and the pressures that we face. So I’m honoured to be told by Brian.

“I accept the Jack Adams Award on behalf of my family — my wife, Wanda, and son, Christopher.”

Sutter returned to tackle “unfinished business”

It’s been almost 20 years since Sutter’s only other nomination for the top coaching prize. He was a finalist in 2004 when he helped lead the unheralded Calgary Flames to the playoffs. Once there, the workmanlike Flames got all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Falling short there and never getting back was one of the reasons Sutter decided to accept the challenge of returning mid-season last year.

Sutter declared there was “unfinished business” and quickly got down to it with these Flames. He established a foundation for the way he wanted them to play and stressed an offseason focus on conditioning to be prepared for the grind this season.

As one of the most consistent teams in the league, the Calgary Flames rose to the top of the Pacific Division despite the fact there were few who thought they could be so successful after missing the playoffs the previous season

Their style led to both career highs for offence for half the roster and a top-tier team defence that was in the running for the Jennings Trophy and landed goaltender Jacob Markstrom a spot as a finalist for he Vezina.

Sutter completely altered the culture of the Calgary Flames team, establishing an identity it lost after he was relieved of his GM duties more than a decade ago.

Culture shift helps establish Flames identity

“I think everybody talks about culture change. To me, culture is your habits, your environment,” current Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving said this week when talking about Sutter’s impact in his first full year back. “It’s doing the right things; it’s doing those mundane, miserable things over and over that make you better. That’s what Darryl does.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence people had career years. He pushes people to achieve things and it’s not always comfortable … but being successful in any walk of life is not easy. Human nature is to survive. It’s just to survive. So to be really good is hard, and he pushes people to be really, really good.

“He’s brought structure, he’s brought accountability to this group and the group’s embraced it. I think it’d be a crying shame if he’s not named the coach of the year.”

Sutter saved Treliving some tears thanks to votes on 93 of the 121 ballots. That included 54 first-place nods from the NHL Broadcaster’s Association.

He beat out New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant and the Florida Panthers’ Andrew Brunette. Only Gallant remains in the playoffs.

Sutter said a couple of weeks ago when he was named as a finalist that he “didn’t need it on his resume” and that it should go to a young guy or someone who’d been given a raw deal.

But there was little doubt which coach had the biggest positive impact on his team this season.

It just didn’t end the way he wanted.