Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter has been around the NHL for a long time. He’s heading into his 22nd season as a head coach, has won multiple Stanley Cups, led four different teams to the playoffs, and posted a winning record with every franchise he’s been with.
The change he’s had on the Flames has been impressive seeing them go from missing the playoffs to posting 111 points last season before being dispatched in the second round by the Edmonton Oilers.
Sutter is an old-school head coach. He believes in many of the long-standing traditions in the game of hockey and his no-nonsense yet almost aloof-sounding attitude makes him one of a kind. There’s no questioning his knowledge of the sport and what it takes to win in today’s game though.
Lucky for us, he’s willing to share exactly what he thinks it takes. In an extended sit-down with Sportsnet’s “The Big Show” Sutter was asked a myriad of questions about the team he currently coaches. Many of them were about his new players and the wild offseason his team just went through, but along the way he mentioned three different aspects of the game he believes a team must have to win the Cup.
Bottom line is we were not good enough at center ice. It showed up in the playoffs. The top teams in this division are three centermen deep and it really exposed us. –Darryl Sutter to Sportsnet’s The Big Show
Sutter was speaking about the importance of his team adding Nazem Kadri to go along with Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund.
Since the addition of Jack Eichel, the Golden Knights are strong down the middle. William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson will likely begin the season as the next two centers, but the option to use Nic Roy or Brett Howden gives the team even more flexibility.
Historically, center has been a bit of a weak spot for Vegas with Karlsson clearly filling the role as the team’s best. With him slotting down to 2nd or even 3rd best, VGK can go toe to toe with just about anyone. Also, the Golden Knights have a nice mix of players including an insanely talented scorer, a lockdown defender, and a speedster.
Next, Sutter pointed to the blue line.
Well, all the top teams have a star defenseman. Just go through the last seven or eight Stanley Cup teams and there’s a stud defenseman that can play half the game and all situations. I think we’re a more balanced type of defense than those teams. –Sutter to Sportsnet’s The Big Show
Hello Alex Pietrangelo.
In fact, Pietrangelo actually is one of the defensemen from the “last seven or eight Stanley Cup teams” and he’s expected to play a major role once again.
Sutter pointed to his team’s depth, which is also a strength for the Golden Knights on the back end. Vegas truly does go six deep in bonafide top-four defensemen, assuming Nic Hague’s contract is figured out before the season starts.
Finally, in somewhat of a summarizing statement, Sutter added the last piece, which is the one where Vegas has some question marks… at least for now.
I’m not old school (in wanting to build up the middle.) That is how you win. Pretty clear. Those are your most important players: your goalie, your four defensemen and your four or five centermen. –Sutter to Sportsnet’s The Big Show
Obviously, if the Golden Knights had a healthy Robin Lehner, they’d fill all of Sutter’s criteria to a tee. Without Lehner, VGK will rely on one of three guys who have never taken the reins as a true #1. That being said, Laurent Brossoit, Logan Thompson, and Adin Hill have all proven at different times that they are capable NHL goalies.
Vegas has a lot to prove to be on par with the Flames in the goaltending department, but the centers are fairly close and VGK clearly has the edge on defense.
One other thing Sutter didn’t mention was something he had in both of his two Stanley Cup wins. Assistant coach John Stevens.
VGK have him now too.