Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brent Sutter pulls a Nick Saban

Fit or no fit (and on paper it’s probably a good fit), the rest of the hockey world is not basking in the southern Alberta lovefest of Brent Sutter becoming head coach of the Calgary Flames.

Why? Can you say Nick Saban?

For those who don’t know the story, football coach Saban incurred disdain from his former NFL colleagues when after two seasons with the Miami Dolphins, he repeatedly announced he would stay with the team – only to resign and coach the next season with the University of Alabama.

And here we are with Brent Sutter – who adamantly denies he is leaving the Devils to coach the Flames – low and behold.

“I believe it was Monday, June 8 that I had officially resigned my position with the New Jersey Devils as their head coach.” Brent Sutter (when writing about the Flames, we can no longer use just a surname) did extol words about the tremendous respect for New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello, how he was like a father figure, that he understood the situation. With Lamoriello allowing the Flames to talk to him, he adds, “I’m not sure under normal circumstances that would happen.”

Regardless of what the locals might think, know that the warm and fuzzy feelings are not mutual. In fact, as Lamoriello stays publicly silent, Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek is not. He told the Newark Star-Ledger, “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.” Exactly how the NFL fraternity feels about Nick Saban.

At the time of his resignation, Brent Sutter was not happy about spending so little time with his daughter. It is believed his family did not accompany him to New Jersey because his daughter was so close to graduation, and being uprooted from friends is a devastating blow to any teenager.

“I was going to be re-evaluating things on a yearly basis because of family and personal situations. With Lou and myself, the dialogue has been outstanding. We’ve always had strong communication.”

Certainly, the Flames could use a strong hand to run the team. The city was all but certain a Sutter would end up behind the bench, but that it would be Darryl. In any case, Brent Sutter will instill that same accountability factor. Whether he will be any more successful than Mike Keenan is yet to be determined. After all, Brent Sutter’s Devils made first-round exits in the same seasons that Keenan coached the Flames.

Still, he claims he was not thinking about the Flames when he made his announcement in Newark. “When I did resign from my position, I was very content and perfectly fine with the fact I may never ever coach again in the National Hockey League.”

That’s good because chances are this will be his last NHL coaching job. Hopefully, he’ll make the most of it.

But while his actions will share the same distaste as Saban’s, he’ll never be the pariah that is Bobbie Petrino. The former Atlanta Falcons coach quit his team with three games left in the season, left a four-paragraph letter in each player’s stall on their day off, and the next day was on national TV singing the pig suey song as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.