Sutter back behind the bench as interim head coach in Red Deer
Former Flames bench boss fires Wallin in bid to change message to middling WHL club
Brent Sutter is back behind the bench again.
Sutter, the owner and general manager of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels, fired coach Jesse Wallin on Tuesday and will take over on an interim basis — his first league coaching stint since he parted ways with the Calgary Flames last April.
“To be quite honest, it’s not a good day at all,” he said in Wednesday’s Red Deer media scrum video posted on the team’s website. “Jesse’s a great, great guy. He’s someone I’ve gotten very close with over the years, but he and I have had some discussion over the last period of time . . .
“I made a decision after discussions with Jesse to move forward in a different direction.
“Coaching, it’s a tough racket and in Jesse’s situation, No. 1 he is a very good coach, but the message just wasn’t getting through to the players and I don’t really have an exact reason why that has been the case. Jesse recognized it, too. The right thing is to make change.
“Sometimes in life it’s never easy to do the right thing, but today is the right thing to do moving forward.”
Wallin was at the helm of a Rebels team which has stumbled out of the gate to a 10-11-1-1 record, seventh in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
Sutter, the former coach of the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames, was a successful junior coach before heading to the NHL.
The 50-year-old form Viking, Alta., coached the Rebels to a Memorial Cup in 2001 and Canada to gold at the 2005 and 2006 world junior hockey championships.
Sutter then compiled a 97-56 record over two seasons with the Devils before joining the Flames.
Calgary went 118-90-38 in three seasons under Sutter before making a change after last season.
“I guess you could say right now that I’m the best option at this point in time, but we’ll just see what happens,” said Sutter, who will be searching for a permanent head coach.
It’s entirely possible that guy is the man Sutter named as associate coach on Wednesday — Jeff Truitt, who was at the helm of the 2005 WHL champion Kelowna Rockets and was briefly the head coach of the one-time Edmonton Oilers American Hockey League farm team in Springfield.
“To bring him in — a guy who’s very knowledgeable and has a real good understanding of the game — in that capacity is a huge plus for us,” said Sutter.
“Having a guy who’s available like that is obviously very important.”
Bryce Thoma will stay on as an assistant coach.
“Now the onus is on the players,” said Sutter. “It’s thrown their way and they need to respond. We’ll see what we have for character, we’ll see what we have for a team and see what our leadership group is about.
“I want to be a team that’s on its toes, a team that’s responsible with and without the puck,” he added.
The Rebels next play on Saturday, due to host Swift Current (7:30 p.m., Red Deer Centrium) a day before the Broncos visit the Calgary Hitmen (2 p.m., Sunday, Saddledome).
— With files from The Canadian Press
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