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Zadorov says Sutter ‘did not fit’ as Flames coach



Darryl Sutter

The Big Z has weighed in on what led to his head coach’s dismissal.

Calgary Flames defenceman Nikita Zadorov said in a story published in Russian and translated into English on Thursday that Darryl Sutter ‘did not fit our team.’

Sutter, who won the Jack Adams Award last season as the NHL’s top coach, was dismissed by the Flames two weeks after the end of the 2022-23 NHL campaign, in which the team missed the playoffs. The Viking, Alta., native had been hired in March 2021 to replace Geoff Ward as head coach.

Zadorov said he couldn’t provide “90 percent of the information” behind the firing of Sutter but revealed players “had some difficulties” with the veteran coach, who had been set to start a two-year contract extension worth a reported $8 million.

The 28-year-old Russian defenceman revealed that while professing Sutter “made me a better player. I enjoyed playing under him.”

Zadorov said problems between Sutter and players “accumulated as the year wore on and essentially repeated much of what other players, particularly Jonathan Huberdeau, have said in the wake of the season, saying the coach didn’t mesh with the new stars on the Flames roster.

“Last year, Sutter was the perfect coach for Calgary. This season, the leaders changed, and he did not suit them,” Zadorov said. “They did not find mutual understanding. When you invest $50-80 million in players, you choose in their favour.”

Sutter, 64, was on his second tour of duty with the Flames. He had replaced Greg Gilbert as coach in December 2002, added general manager’s responsibilities following the 2002-03 campaign and led the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup final, losing to Tampa Bay in six games. He relinquished his coaching duties following the 2005-06 season and left Calgary in December 2010. He went on to coach the Los Angeles Kings to Stanley Cup victories in 2012 and 2014.

Zadorov, the 16th overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 NHL Draft, was acquired by the Flames from the Chicago Blackhawks in July 2021. He has one year remaining on a contract worth $ 3.75 million per season. He played in all 82 games for the Flames in 2022-23, scoring 14 goals and seven assists, and finishing with a plus-10 plus/minus rating and 80 penalty minutes.

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Doug Thomas

Calgary now has the inmates running the asylum. Will there ever be a coach able to suit them? A new GM has a large job of trading and rebuilding to get rid of the stink in the dressing room!

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