Major Shakeups in Calgary Continue After Sutter's Dismissal

Published May 4, 2023 at 11:15

Calgary Flames Fire Coach Darryl Sutter

The Calgary Flames have officially fired head coach Darryl Sutter, leaving the team without both Sutter and former GM Brad Treliving for the upcoming season. This decision comes after a disastrous regular season and the dismissal of Treliving last month. President Don Maloney now faces a hectic offseason.

Flames' Players Reportedly Pushed for Sutter's Firing

According to reports by Flames insiders Wes Gilbertson and Eric Francis, it was the Flames' players who played a significant role in Sutter's dismissal.

Francis, in his latest piece for Sportsnet, highlighted the toxic environment created by Sutter, which led to Treliving stepping down two weeks ago.

(Treliving's) decision to fall on the sword two weeks ago due to professional differences with Sutter prompted ownership and hockey president Don Maloney to realize just how toxic an environment Sutter had created.

That, combined with some explosive exit interviews with players, and pointed conversations with coaches and player agents, made it clear the Flames needed a new coach.

The players simply hated going to the rink, where Sutter liked it being tense, heavy and unpredictable.

Sutter built a culture of fear, as he felt it helped him become one of the best coaches of an era.

He continues:

No coach prepares players as well as Sutter, few work a bench as brilliantly as he does, and his forechecking mentality was, in fact, the best way for this team to play.

However, his tear-em-down, build-em-back-up approach sucked the love of the game out of many players, including franchise cornerstones Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri.

Sutter has changed in some ways, but not as a manager of people, which was his undoing.

His disrespect for the media has been a source of great entertainment for many, but it also gave people a glimpse into how he treats others while in coach mode.

Exit interviews with players, conversations with coaches and player agents, all pointed towards the need for a new coach. Sutter's culture of fear and heavy-handed management style alienated many players, including key franchise members Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri.

Francis added that Sutter's treatment of the media offered insight into how he dealt with others while in coach mode.

Gilbertson, in his article for the Calgary Sun, mentioned that the players' opinions influenced the decision but did not force it. Maloney acknowledged the importance of listening to the players' voices but also stressed the need to balance their input with other organizational considerations.

«They certainly didn't force our hands,» Maloney protested during Monday's press conference at the Saddledome. «Everybody has their opinion. And I think it's today's player, too. Ten years or 20 years ago, they wouldn't say boo, generally, but the players of today want a voice and they have a voice and you have to listen to that voice. You don't want to make it that the inmates are running the asylum, so to speak, but they had some real observations on how, in their minds, we should move forward. I'm not going to get in the specifics of it, but it was just one piece of the puzzle.

«Really, the whole evaluation was the entire organization, both inside and outside,» he continued. «The agents you speak to, they have influence on players staying here and attracting new players. They have lots of voices. So you try to touch base with everybody to say, ‘ OK, what's your take on it? What's your read on it? What do you think happened here with your client or other clients?' That's why it's taken the two weeks that it's taken.»

Team Chemistry and Morale Suffered

Regardless of who was coaching, the Flames were likely to face a challenging season due to the loss of cornerstone players like Gaudreau and Tkachuk. Sutter's taskmaster approach only exacerbated existing morale issues.

Early reactions from Flames' players suggest that Sutter's removal is a welcome change. NHL insider Frank Seravalli reported that veteran forward Mikael Backlund is waiting to see how management handles the offseason before committing further to the team.

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May 4   |   123 answers
Major Shakeups in Calgary Continue After Sutter's Dismissal

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