The Calgary Flames fired head coach Darryl Sutter on Monday, which did and didn’t come as a shock to fans. The surprise surrounded the fact that he was relieved of his duties after GM Brad Treliving was allowed to walk from his job as a manager, specifically because he wasn’t given the authority to fire Sutter. And, with a new contract kicking in, the Flames seemed to prioritize the money they owed the bench boss over keeping Treliving on staff. So, when they fired Sutter days later, the news came as a bit of a twist.
At the same time, his dismissal was not surprising. There were rumored rifts in the locker room, his Flames underperformed and missed the playoffs, and reports that players were upset when speaking with management in their end-of-season meetings, and mostly about how old-school Sutter’s messaging was (and that it didn’t resonate) were everywhere. Specifically, Jonathan Huberdeau — who was being relied upon after a 115-point season in Florida and with a brand new contract in the books to produce — had regressed significantly under Sutter’s watch.
Huberdeau spoke about the issues between himself and Sutter following news of Sutter’s firing. Speaking in French with Montreal-based radio station BPM Sports, the center was candid about where things went off the rails and his review of the Flames’ former coach wasn’t terribly glowing.
He noted, “You’re supposed to put your players in a position to succeed and I think this season he didn’t do that.” He later added: “They gave me a big contract… Gave (Nazem) Kadri one too, but I was disappointed that I wasn’t put in situations where I could have as much success as possible.” These comments tend to agree with reviews of Sutter’s work that he gave priority to grinders and third-line players when he should have been focused on the skill sets of his most offensively dynamic stars.
“It really didn’t click between me and Darryl last year. There were a lot of factors. There was a big difference in points between my last two years. And the style of play he wanted to play, it didn’t fit my style of game… Having a new coach is going to help my game and my confidence, too.”
Huberdeau wasn’t a fan of some of Sutter’s tactics either. Saying the entire team was quite upset about the way the former coach pretended not to know who rookie Jakob Pelletier was in January, Huberdeau said, “We were disappointed. Especially a young kid that comes in, you don’t need that. For a young player, just play well. In the moment we were pretty surprised, but that’s Darryl,” Huberdeau said. He added that Sutter had told Jakob he’d played well, but then said different things to the media to point the player out as someone who was seemingly insignificant. “I think he didn’t want to talk about it in the media, he wanted to turn the page… but after he went to see Jakob and told him he played well and that he was happy for him, but then why are you saying this stuff to the media and then you go see the kid to tell him he played well? “I don’t think you needed to do that, but that’s Darryl.”
Can Huberdeau Rebound?
If the Flames are going to find any sort of success, they’ll need the former Jonathan Huberdeau back. While he may never reach 115 points again, what he produced for them this year can’t be the kind of production he offers moving forward. Should he, his contract will be viewed as one of the biggest albatrosses in the NHL.
When asked if he’s confident he can bounce back, he responded, “Yeah, certainly.” He added, “But this year was a lot harder mentally. I lost my confidence, my swagger.” He didn’t blame the coach for that, but we can all read between the lines.
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