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A calming influence from the coach

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames
When there is a passionate fan base, there is always emotion.

Calgary Flames' coach Brent Sutter,

The Calgary Flames are no different. There is an emotional investment on the part of fans. In the good times it is seen in the C of Red at the Pengrowth Saddledome, one of the loudest playoff buildings in the league. In the bad times those passionate fans also want to know what went wrong and what might be done to correct the problem.

It is in this last state the the Flames find themselves at the moment.

Eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday for the first time since 2003, the talk everywhere -- media, water coolers, bars, restaurants, hospitals, schools -- is about the 2009-10 version of the Calgary Flames missing the playoffs. How could it happen? What changes are going to be made? There are no shortage of suggestions -- seriously, is there a person you met today that didn't have an idea for improving the Flames?

In the middle of all this passion is the team -- the players, the coaches, the management.

And, of course, a season to finish.

As everything swirls, head coach Brent Sutter seems a calm influence.

A veteran of plenty of on-ice wars, highs and lows and a now a veteran coach at the junior and National Hockey League levels, Sutter is one of the voices of reason.

"We have to think things through properly and handle it right. Saying things and making decisions on emotion is not the way to go about it. More often than not you say the wrong thing and make the wrong decision," said Sutter prior to the Flames hosting Minnesota in Game 81 of the season.

The Flames wrap up the regular season in Vancouver on Saturday. And one of the first things Sutter wants is a strong finish.

"It is important to finish strong for a number of reasons. We have tremendous support from the fans here and they deserve to have that too," said Sutter.

Speculation, too, comes with emotion. There is plenty of speculation about the future of players. The future of those who manage the team. Sutter said the team -- players and coaches -- have not control over what is being said, what is being written. Of course, that his brother, Darryl Sutter, is the general manager of the team, leads to the logical question. Just exactly how do you deal with everything that is going on?

"We're professional people, too," said Sutter. "We understand the business side of it. There is bad that comes with good, too. As far as what is being said...Yes, Darryl is my brother and I love him to death. But, as I said, we are all responsible for what happened. Coaches, players, everybody. Fair or unfair, what is being said out there, you don't control it."

So, in typical Sutter fashion, Brent puts his nose to the grindstone to chase down two wins to finish the season.

"You go about your work. I am not a finger pointer. I believe in resolve. Doing it the right way. We are professional and we understand what is going on and what possibly can happen going forward.This is not easy on anybody. It is handling it the right way. It's important that everyone stays supportive and makes sure we deal with it in the right way. Whatever happens will happen. Yet we have to make sure that the picture moving forward is first and foremost. That's what counts. That's what matters," said Sutter.

The coach is, for the most part, staying away from post-mortem's on his team. But he does say that some inconsistent play through portions of the season is troublesome.

"The inconsistency part has certainly been troublesome. Games where you thought as a coach where you think the urgency level would be where it need to be but it didn't happen," he said.

With nothing to play for for the final two games of the season, Sutter is not taking his coaching hat off. Quite to the contrary.

"You go through so much through the year you get a feel for what they (players) are like as people and as players," said Sutter. "This is a different situation right now. You expect them to play hard (when it matters in the standings) so you would expect that they would play hard (now) too."

With perhaps a look to the future, Sutter did make a line-up change for Thursdays game against Minnesota. He inserted rookie Mikael Backlund as centre for Rene Bourque and Jarome Iginla, the team's top two goal-getters.

The gifted Swedish centre, said Sutter, will get some experience by playing on the top line.

"I think it is good for his experience. I also think he deserves it. He is a young kid who came in during hard times and has played well for us. He has played as well as anybody down the middle. He has a bright future here with this organization," said Sutter.

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