Why Darryl Sutter coaching the Flames is a perfect fit

NHL insider Mark Spector tells Gene Principe that Flames management under Burke and Treliving inherited coach Hartley, and therefore his leash was short right from the get-go.

Some things just make too much sense not to happen.

Like Darryl Sutter going back to Calgary to coach the Flames.

Now, let’s be clear. This isn’t rumour. This isn’t speculation. It’s more of, let’s say, an observation on the Flames, for starters, and how they say they want to change their team, and on the rather peculiar and very public hemming and hawing that’s been going on over the last few days between Sutter and the Los Angeles Kings.

Let’s start with that.

On Friday, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi revealed that the club had a made a “very fair” contract offer to Sutter, who has won two Stanley Cups with the club in the past four years. Reports suggest the offer is for two years plus an option. Money-wise, with Mike Babcock getting $50 million over eight years and Bruce Boudreau just getting a four-year deal for a shade under $12 million, well, Sutter’s got to be in the $5 million per season range, you’d think.

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But Lombardi also made it clear he doesn’t want it to be same-old, same-old if Sutter returns. The Kings missed the playoffs last season, and two weeks ago they were knocked out in the first round, something Lombardi called a “punch in the gut.”

“You can’t approach things, ‘This worked in the past, all we have to do is go back and do it this way again and we’ll recapture it.’ This season clearly demonstrated that’s not the case and there’s a reason why,” Lombardi told reporters.

“Your players are different, your economic chemistry is different. Your spiritual chemistry is different and you stop striving to take the next step.

“We have to get back on that path, the innovation, the spark, the challenge that was there seven years ago when we were coming from the gutter. You’ve got to get it back.”

Well, that’s interesting. Please come back, Lombardi seems to be saying to Sutter, but come back different.

For his part, Sutter told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman via text message that he has the contract offer in hand but said he’s still “undecided.”

“Still looking at what our team will potentially look like next season with (free agents), salary cap and kids still playing with (AHL) club in Ontario. Coached long time and a lot of playoff games, so number one for me is to continue to do that,” wrote Sutter in the text.

“We have really enjoyed it here so that has weight. I want to win another Cup that also is a big factor.”

Sutter, 57, seems to be telling Lombardi that he may want to come back, but that he’s not convinced the Kings are necessarily well-positioned to go after the Cup again.

Now, we turn to the Flames.

They are coach-less since canning Bob Hartley, and based on what GM Brad Treliving seems to be indicating, they want to go to more of a possession style of hockey after being one of the NHL’s least effective possession teams the last two seasons.

Under Sutter, of course, the Kings have been one of the NHL’s best possession teams in recent years. Beyond that, the Flames are in a pretty good cap situation, although they’ve got to sign RFAs Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and need to find goaltending this summer.

With Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie, the Flames have capable defencemen with experience, and have four picks in the first two rounds of the NHL draft next month, including the sixth overall pick. Sam Bennett is another top-end young player, and overall, the Flames seem to be an up-and-coming squad, while some would argue the Kings, because of age and cap concerns, may be trending the other way.

Sutter’s eight-year run in Calgary started in late December, 2002 as head coach, then added the GM title the following the spring when Craig Button was dumped. Sutter held both titles through Calgary’s run to the Stanley Cup Final the following spring and until the conclusion of the 2005-06 season, when he promoted Jim Playfair to head coach.

Playfair lasted only one season before Sutter hired Mike Keenan, and two years after that, he fired Keenan and hired his brother, Brent. None of it got the Flames back to the Cup final, and on Dec. 28, 2010, Sutter resigned as GM of the Flames amidst a cloud of unhappiness. Then he joined the Kings and got two rings while looking like one of the smartest men in hockey.

So could he go back to Alberta now? Sure he could. Michel Therrien, until Carey Price got hurt last fall, seemed to demonstrate his second tour of duty in Montreal would be more successful than his first.

To turn to another sport, John Gibbons is in his second run with the Toronto Blue Jays, and that nearly resulted in a World Series berth last fall.

When Sutter left the Flames, the club had exhausted the possibilities of the Jarome Iginla/Miikka Kiprusoff era, but now it’s a brand new day under Treliving and president Brian Burke.

Plus, remember, Sutter’s teams play the style the Flames say they want to play now.

Again, this is just an observation, an attempt to connect some dots. L.A. could re-sign Sutter tomorrow, and maybe he doesn’t really want to leave, and perhaps this is just a salary negotiation.

But the Sutter clan is still based out of Viking, Alta., and Sutter has gone back to his hometown roots for personal reasons once before, stepping down as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks way back in 1995 to tend to the special needs of his son, Christopher.

It just seems to make so much sense, Sutter back to the Flames.

Too much sense, right?

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