I’ve been shocked by the struggles of the Calgary Flames, both because they seemed like a solid enough team and because coach Brent Sutter did a fantastic job in New Jersey last year.
But lately, I’m wondering if he really did as good a job as we think.
A large part of the Flames struggles has been an inability to clamp down on opponents. You saw it last night, where the Flames blew a two-goal lead to the Stars.
Last season in New Jersey, Sutter introduced an uptempo, offensive system to the previously defensive Devils. It worked well for the Devils, and they transitioned relatively well, although some players, at the time, seemed upset Sutter wasn’t doing things like line-matching and consistently using a checking line.
But now I’m wondering if defensive hockey wasn’t so ingrained in the culture of the Devils, that it was hiding some of Sutter’s coaching flaws. Was his system too high-risk, with not enough reward? Does he not spend enough time coaching defense? And did the Devils compensate for these failings on their own? Did they self-coach around Sutter?
The funny thing is, Sutter dumped the Devils, where things were going really well, to join the Flames. And now, things are a mess.
Maybe Sutter is going to Jarome Iginla too frequently, instead of using a more balanced attack.
Maybe the team is having trouble picking up a new system.
Or maybe Sutter just takes it for granted that teams will play defensively without being explicitly told to do so. Maybe he’s assuming the Flames are just like the Devils.
Obviously, that assumption doesn’t seem to be panning out.