CALGARY – Oh, brother.
Despite the hype surrounding their first-ever meeting as head coaches, both Darryl and Brent Sutter downplayed the magnitude of Saturday night’s clash between the Calgary Flames and L.A. Kings.
“I’m just focused on the game,” Darryl told a throng of reporters after the Kings’ pre-game skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “I’ve always been about challenges. This is another good one.”
Darryl, who had a 6-1-4 record heading into Saturday since replacing Terry Murray as the Kings’ coach on Dec. 17, admitted that he was looking forward to getting behind the bench in front of the hockey-loving fans he knows so well.
“To see the building the way it’s been, it gives me shivers,” said the former Flames coach and general manager. “It’s an awesome city and great ownership and great fans. That’s how you’ve got to look at it. Hockey’s just a piece of it.”
Earlier in the morning, younger brother Brent also shrugged off the significance of the Sutter versus Sutter matchup.
“It’s not even an issue with us,” he said. “It is with everyone else but with us it’s not. It’s L.A. versus Calgary. To be honest, I haven’t even really given it much thought. It’s making sure that we’re up to our standards. It’s not the first time that brothers have coached against each other and it won’t be the last. It’s not that big … it really isn’t.”
Kings forward Colin Fraser, who played for Brent with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League from 2001-05, has seen similarities between the coaching styles of both Sutters.
“It’s funny,” Fraser said. “Darryl, the first week he was in there, it just reminded me of junior and how Brent coached and the tendencies and what they talk about.
“There’s really not much difference. They’re both crazy, intense guys, run very similar practices really and have the same type of style.
“I know if I had a brother that played in the league, I’d probably want to get the upper hand too. I’m sure they both want to win and they both want to have bragging rights.”
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla echoed Fraser’s opinion.
“It’d probably be nice to win your first one,” Iginla said. “You’d always have bragging rights there. That’s the fun side of it.”
Darryl took over as Calgary’s coach in the 2002-03 campaign and added GM title the following season. He guided the Flames to within one game of winning the Stanley Cup in 2004 and coached one more season before deciding to concentrate on his duties as GM. He stepped down from that post in December 2010.
“I came (to Calgary) in a tough situation in every area, on and off the ice,” Darryl said. “It’s one of the most successful on-and-off-the-ice teams in the NHL for a long time, so that’s pretty good.”
Now, he’s focused on not only getting the Kings into the playoffs, but having success in the post-season as well.
“This group here, we have six of seven kids that are bordering on being elite players,” Darryl said. “We’ve got to help them get there.”
Brent said his older brother has the ability to get the best out of young players.
“He’s always been a good coach,” Brent said. “He’s always good with young players. That’s not surprising when you hear that.”
One of the first things that Kings defenceman Jack Johnson noticed about his new coach was the level of enthusiasm he has for the game.
“He’s a pretty outspoken, passionate guy,” Johnson said. “It’s just a different coaching approach. He brings in a little more enthusiasm to coaching. We haven’t really changed the way we’ve played at all. It’s just a different coach coaching.”
Darryl said getting back on the ice with the players took a bit of getting used to.
“My biggest problem is staying out of the way in practice,” he said. “You get back down there, you forget how good they are. They’re pretty fast. That’s what I told them after the first game, you guys are a lot better than I was.”