Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Big Day

Item the first: Brent Sutter to leave Devils. Even back before he took the NJD job, I was never on board with the notion that he was a great fit to coach the Flames. It comes down to two semi-related issues:
  1. The success he's achieved in his post-playing career has pretty much always been as the big dog; the guy who makes the final decisions on everything. I was surprised that he took the Devils' job in the first place, given Lamoriello's well-known status as the Ultimate Overlord of everything there short of signing the cheques. I'm not at all sure he wants another position where he's "just the coach".
  2. Yeah, the Flames are turning into a Sutter family business, but Darryl's relatives in the org have roles that are quite specific and out of the spotlight. The coach's job is to do WHATEVER, that one way or another results in regular season and then playoff success. Sometimes, that's going to be odds with the way the GM has planned things. Let's imagine for a second that Brent was coach this past season, and thinks Olli Jokinen is basically crap. Darryl trades for him at the deadline, announcing that the org has been interested in him for years; he only did it because Olli has another year left on his deal; and that he only notified Brent the night before that it was about to happen ("GMs manage, coaches coach"). Does Brent really want to be in this kind of position, where his brother has autonomous license to affect what he thinks he should be doing to succeed? I'm not so sure.

Item the Second: Bankruptcy court to rule on Balsillie bid for Coyotes. The NHL (and/or Gary Bettman, and/or the Board of Governors, make your own distinctions) is specifically asking for a ruling that a court cannot supersede the rules and regulations of the league with respect to transfer of ownership or relocation. The NBA, NFL, and MLB are apparently all supporting the NHL.

This seems to me like a "careful what you ask for" situation. To look at it from another angle, the NHL is asking Judge Redfield to explicitly tell the secured creditors of every team that in reality, what they are is secured** creditors (**subject to a vote of the 30 Governors, who always have their own interests first).

If you're a major lender, then it seems to me that being secured is better than being secured**. If word comes down that what they are is secured**, I don't see how the result -- short, medium, and long-term -- could be anything but more difficult and more expensive financing for pro sports teams. Are the Governors, and the owners in the other leagues, sure they want to call that a Win?

Item the Third: Stanley Cup may be awarded tonight. "Young team with gobs of talent makes finals, gets schooled by veteran & successful franchise, learns what it takes to win, comes back the following season to match up with the same franchise, and takes the final step." As a long-time Flames fan, I've been bored with that narrative for approximately 25 years minus 5 minutes. Accordingly, I thought the most fascinating narrative for these Finals would be a Wings sweep. My second preference is "identical result to previous year", so I'll be rooting for the Wings to wrap it up tonight. The NHL can then save money by continuing to run that Crosby stop-motion TV ad through next season as well.


Matt, do you really figure Darryl would be quite so doctrinaire about the separation of church and state if Brent was the coach? I'm just guessing here, but I suspect he may give little bro's input more of a hearing than any outsider. The key word in the phrase "family business" is likely still "family". If the Flames go downhill, Darryl and Brent would go out the door tied at the hip, IMO. No point in sandbagging your brother in that scenario.

I take your point, but that raises more questions:

Let's say Darryl does in fact hire Brent as the coach. Privately (i.e. in reality), does he actually surrender some "say" to Brent? Publicly, does he (A) announce/admit/concede that he's now sharing power and influence that used to be his alone, or (B) downplay Brent's input?

And what does Brent think about Darryl's job security, anyway? If it's tenuous, then he himself is the obvious candidate to succeed -- does he want that situation? If it's rock-solid, does he want to be in the position where he's clearly the low man on the totem pole, and subject to getting fired in 2 years?

Or if they're destined to go out the door tied at the hip, does he really want his own future tied so tightly to someone else's performance, even if it is his own brother? (Is it possible that that's worse?)

Those are all valid points, Matt. I'm not quite convinced that a failure of Sutter D. would lead to the hiring of Sutter B., however.

If the Flames ownership kills off Darryl, hiring Brent in his place would be deeply uncomfortable for just about everyone involved. I don't see Ken King or the ownership group making that sort of move. A clean break would be in order.

My suspicion is that if Brent coaches the Flames, he and Darryl will have a succession plan worked out that kicks Darryl upstairs to the presidency/governor's role at a suitable time. Whether that occurs would depend on the success of the franchise and the benevolence of the ownership, of course. If Ken King doesn't mind doing something else or retiring in a few years, I could see that happening.

As for what role Brent actually plays beyond coaching, and any ackowledgement thereof, I'm not so sure that a modest relinquishing by Darryl is so far fetched. He trusts his brother like no one else. Everyone with a pulse recognizes this by now, I'd suspect. Publicly, well, you've seen enough to know that Darryl Sutter doesn't give a rat's ass about how anyone parses his statements. He'll say whatever the hell he figures he can get away with.

I guess the one thing that makes me think that we can't use normal rules in this matter is the family connection. I'd guess that for whatever public impression is given, the reality is a fairly co-operative venture.

I heard Sutter comment on deadline day after the Jokinen trade. I think it was Sportsnet, I was listening but not watching, in any case whichever network Jay Feaster was working for. Him and Sutter sound like buddies.

They asked him about Keenan's influence on the Jokinen trade. Sutter said that he hadn't talked to Keenan about it until it was a done deal, but he had talked to his brother Duane about Olli. Which may well be Daryl blowing smoke, I don't know, but if it's true, it's strange. Though less strange now that it appears that Keenan was on the way out and the Flames are becoming Sutterfied.

One of his first comments on Jokinen as well was "he can play against anyone". Again, maybe he can, but I don't think he's really been asked to do a lot of that in the recent past. Maybe under Duane though?

Brent Sutter is an interesting coach as well. I've followed links from the timonice site stats to a few articles by a guy who went through the matchups tracking Sutter's tendencies. Apparently upon arrival he said that he didn't want to roll with a checking line. And from what I've read around the web, by this season, or at least the back half, he was running power vs power for the most part. Have to give props on the development of Parise as well. He's not being rolled out there in the familiar "position to succeed" like a lot of young, smallish forwards. Not that I watch Jersey much at all, but the numbers all point that direction.

RC, you're kind of convincing me. The part about Darryl's public pronouncements is obviously true -- I can easily seem him saying both that Brent will be given a say in personnel decisions, and that in no way affects his own role.

On the other hand, I'm still not sure that just because it seems obvious and perfect, it is. How often do we see a trade or FA signing commended because it's the guy's hometown (or has family there, whatever), and it just doesn't work out at all. Or at least, doesn't add value.

It would be rude of me to bring up Lupul, so perhaps it's better to point out that if working in the NHL near home & family was so great in and of itself, the Leafs would be near the top of the league every season.

Also, let me be clear that none of this is a comment on Brent Sutter's coaching skill or style at all. He could well be the best candidate *by far* out there, I just don't follow the EC closely enough to have much of an opinion on him as an NHL coach.

Matt, I'm not sure it would be a perfect solution at all. I've also run a business with a family member as an employee, so I'm very mindful that simply wanting something to work rarely makes it so.

I certainly think Brent Sutter is a good candidate to coach the Flames, but maybe the best way of putting it is that he's likely the best candidate that Darryl Sutter would countenance. I don't think that Hitchcock, Lindy Ruff, or Mike Babcock is walking through that door.

None of that fixes the biggest problem the Flames have, which is overpaying their goaltender by a few million bucks for too many years. If I'm Brent, I stay home for a year, straighten out the Rebels, look after my family stuff, and see how Darryl sets the team up beyond this season. Right now, they're likely going to be decent in 09/10, but cap hell awaits for 10/11. Brent may not be that calculating given that it's his brother involved, but who knows?

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