The table of Tuesday's news conference was a crowded one. Along with naming Brent Sutter as the new head coach of the Calgary Flames, General Manager Darryl Sutter also announced the teams’ new assistant coaches.
Dave Lowry, Ryan McGill, and Jamie McLennan have joined on to invigorate the organization with new energy, and the group assembled is ready to help the Flames reach the next level in an evolving league.
“We wanted them as a group and age wasn’t a factor because they’re all very current and that’s what you want in today’s game. They’re very progressive and if being young is a contributing factor then great,” said Darryl Sutter.
“All I’ve heard are very positive things about the strength and the breadth of experience and energy that we’re going to get here,” echoed team President Ken King.
All three coaches have a rich history in the Flames organization. Lowry played for the Flames from 2000 – 2004 and was team captain from 2000 – 2002. Last season he coached the Calgary Hitmen to the best record in the WHL (59-9-3-1). While Lowry knows coaching in the pros will be different, he feels the fundamentals remain similar.
“The biggest thing in making the jump is that now you’re dealing with adults and not kids. Obviously in junior hockey you’re dealing with different issues… now the onus shifts to the player’s responsibility,” said Lowry.
“When you keep the puck out of your end you give yourself a very good opportunity to win hockey games.”
Ryan McGill is also getting his first taste of the show after spending the last four years coaching the Flames American Hockey League affiliate,
“It’s an honour to work with this group of people with their integrity for the game and the way the game should be played… These guys a re a great group of guys with the same philosophy and work ethic so it’s a good time right now,” said McGill.
“Anytime you can work with a group of people like we’ve got here it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to getting into training camp, getting going, and working with this group.”
Jamie McLennan enjoyed two stints as a Calgary Flame during his playing career, from 2002-2004 and 2006-2007. Now he intends to use his expertise from 11 years as a NHL goaltender to help with the development of goalkeepers in the Flames’ pipeline.
“I think it’ll be a really good working relationship with the four goalies right now in our system and a teaching relationship with all four of them. I’m really excited to be working with them and at the end of the day our goals are to be in the same place,” said McLennan, who was Miikka Kiprusoff
’s backup during his second tour of duty. Despite this, McLennan isn’t concerned about the previous dynamic of their relationship affecting his new role with the team.
“We have enough of a relationship where there is a respect factor. We are close enough that we can talk about it, but he knows my situation, I know his situation and we all have common goals in mind, and that is where we want to end up at the end of next season.”
Lowry has similar relationships with some of the Flames elder statesmen left over from his playing days as well, but he believes the pursuit of the sports biggest prize will keep everyone on the same page.
“We’re all professionals and we’re in it for the same reason, we’re in it to win and the players understand that. It’s no different than when we were players, we’ve got to do whatever we have to do to win hockey games.”
The excitement surrounding the new coaching staff was palpable in Flames centre Craig Conroy as he spoke to reporters following the news conference.
“You know what you’re getting. They want to coach, they want to show the guys what to do, and that’s what I think we need. We need more coaching and we’ll see how it works out.”
Head coach Brent Sutter is confident in his group and feels the coaches he has underneath him understand exactly what is at stake with a team expected to be on the precipice of championship contention.
“I’m very excited with our staff,” said Sutter. “Obviously the standards in this organization are high, and to be quite honest I can speak on behalf of the whole coaching staff that we wouldn’t want it any other way. Those are our standards too.”