CALGARY — Inquiring minds in Calgary want to know how in the world the Sutter brothers will ever sit down again for a peaceful Christmas dinner.
The question is posed to Brent Sutter in the depths of the Scotiabank Saddledome. He listens inquisitively and chuckles ever so slightly before offering a response.
“Look, this was never a situation of Darryl against Brent or Brent against Darryl,” he says. “Darryl was the general manager of the Calgary Flames and I was the head coach of the Calgary Flames.”
Darryl is no longer general manager of the Flames after stepping down Tuesday — at the request of team president Ken King. Brent remains head coach under acting general manager Jay Feaster, who will huddle in the background with Darryl to make the transition as smooth as possible.
One brother departs. The other stays.
How will the relationship ever survive such a split?
“Hey, Darryl is my brother,” Brent said. “I love him to death.”
But in the Sutter clan, hockey and family are separated like church and state. Remember: Brent fired his big brother Brian a few years back as head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels.
When it comes to Darryl and Brent, the brothers did not exactly see eye to eye. It hardly took a social scientist to detect the friction between the siblings in recent months.
According to Brent rumours of the fractured relationship spiralled way out of control.
“You know what? It got way blown out of proportion on the outside,” he said. “What happens internally stays internal. It always should be that way. There were things that were said on the outside that weren’t true. Darryl and I just let it be that way.”
In the meantime, the Flames plummeted to 14th place in the Western Conference with a mediocre record of 16-18-3. From here, they move forward without their chief architect at the helm.
During a news conference, both King and Feaster took great pains to emphasize their support and belief in the coaching staff.
In other words, Brent Sutter, Dave Lowry, Ryan McGill, Rob Cookson and Jamie McLennan don’t need to fish those cardboard boxes out of the basement for a pending move.
“It’s not easy to see this happen,” Brent said. “Yet, I was hired here to coach the team by ownership and Mr. King and management, and I’ll continue to do so.”
He’ll also continue to care for his big brother in spite of all the drama surrounding the pair in the last 18 months.
Hockey is hockey, Brent said. Blood is blood.
“As far as the family and brothers thing, we separate that really good,” he said. “We learned that at a young age. I know it’s hard for people to see that. But my name just happens to be the same last name as Darryl. I was the head coach and still am. He was the general manger.
“Now we have a new general manager in place.”
Brent refused to delve much into the rampant speculation that he and Darryl rarely spoke. But he voluntarily gushed about his relationship with Feaster, who joined the organization over the summer as assistant general manager.
Make no mistake: these two do talk way more than Brent and Darryl have in recent times. In fact, Brent expects to speak even more to his boss in the coming days and weeks.
“He knows what I’m about as a coach, and my beliefs and things that I see,” he said. “I understand where he’s coming from on the management side of it. Now with him being the general manger, it needs to be even stronger than ever. Because it’s really important.
“For any organization to succeed and have success, the communication within is huge.”
Duane Sutter remains director of player personnel. Ron Sutter is still in charge of player development.
In one of his first moves as acting GM, Feaster pledged to let the players crank the music up after games — and relocate reporters for interviews so they can actually hear what the players are saying — to up the fun-quotient at the Saddledome.
Consider the coach on board.
“I think we’ve taken strides toward doing that down here in the dressing room and we need to continue to take strides,” Brent said. “When you wake up in the morning after a loss, it’s not death.
“You get up in the morning and you get back at it.”
Even if your brother is gone.
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