CALGARY – The Calgary Flames are in the market for a new coach – again.
When the Flames resume action in the fall, they'll do so under their fifth coach in eight years. The Flames and Brent Sutter came to a mutual agreement to conclude coaching duties just one day after the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It was the third consecutive season under Sutter's tutelage that the Flames missed the postseason. Assistant coach Dave Lowry will also not be back next season.
"I think the world of Brent," general manager Jay Feaster said. "We talked about that. We are friends. It's one of the toughest things in this business. So often when things happen, and it's time to part ways … a lot of times that friendship is lost, at least for a while. We departed today on the same basis as we normally do. I appreciate that friendship. It's not an easy day.
"It isn't about blame or three years out. As we talked, we decided this is a time to go separate ways."
Sutter's contract was up for renewal after the Flames put together another 90-point season – their eighth in a row– but failed again to make the playoffs in the highly competitive Western Conference.
The Flames will immediately begin the process of compiling a list of candidates to replace Sutter and begin the interviewing process. No timetable has been set to name a new coach.
Feaster said the Flames would not rule out any candidate.
"We're not going to limit ourselves," he said. "It's not about saying it has to be somebody who has done this or that or it has to be someone who has experience at the NHL. We're going to sit down and go through a process."
"It's very important at this time we do not set any artificial limits on it. We're not going to say it must be this or it must be that."
One such candidate is Abbotsford Heat coach Troy Ward, who has steered Calgary's American Hockey League affiliate to a 40-26-3-5 record and into the playoffs in his first season behind the bench.
"He's done such a great job, and we've talked about that," Feaster said. "At the same time, we would like to see a nice, long playoff run in Abbotsford. We're asking him to keep his eye on the ball there."
Ward -- or any other hire for that matter -- wouldn't be subject to approval from the locker room either, Feaster explained.
"Absolutely positively not," he said. "Management will manage. Players play."
Added Feaster: "I've failed to provide the right players here. I've failed to provide the right chemistry in this team. This isn't about Brent not getting his message through."
Sutter, who compiled a 118-90-38 record in his three seasons behind Calgary's bench, offered a thank you a statement issued via the Flames.
"After discussions with Jay since the season ended, it was in the best interest of the organization and myself to part ways," Sutter said. "I wish the Calgary Flames all the best."
Feaster's feelings for Sutter were mutual.
"One of the best things in the past two years of being in Calgary has been my relationship with Brent," Feaster said. "I consider Brent to be a friend. I think he's a really good hockey coach.
"I don't think there's any question that Brent will coach again in the National Hockey League."
Darryl Sutter, Brent's brother, agreed with Feaster's assessment.
"I think he's a top coach in the National Hockey League," Darryl said, "And it may be very well that he'll be coaching somewhere else soon too."
"If Brent wants to coach in the National Hockey League, he'll coach in the National Hockey League. It's pretty straightforward."