Last week in San Jose, Brett Sutter
found himself watching his Calgary Flames drop a 4-3 decision to the Sharks from the press box – not an unusual spot for a player who was scratched for his 12th straight game.
|Michael Smith |
After playing in the Flames’ first four games of the season and recording an assist in that stretch, Sutter was a healthy extra for another month. Today, however, he's a regular in the Charlotte Checkers’ lineup.
“It’s exciting. It’s a new opportunity and a new challenge,” Sutter said. “I try to be a hard guy to play against. I bring as much energy and emotion as I can, and I try to be real solid in both ends.”
Sutter was acquired from Calgary as a part of the trade that saw Ian White come to Carolina in exchange for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos. The 6-foot, 200-pound center cleared waivers late last week and will be in Charlotte for the immediate future.
The addition of Sutter to the roster will bolster forward depth in Charlotte and bring an element of physicality to a team that has a good stock of skilled forwards.
“He’s a hard-working kid, and he’s a guy that plays with some grit,” said Jason Karmanos, vice president and assistant general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. “He helps our depth up the middle, and he can also play the wing, so we are happy to have him.”
“He’s a guy that has a good hockey sense. He’s real strong on the puck,” said Jeff Daniels, head coach of the Checkers. “He’ll help on our penalty killing and on important faceoffs in our D-zone.”
For Sutter, he simply wants to make an impact on his new team as soon as possible. Through three games with Charlotte, Sutter has yet to crack the score sheet.
“The team has a ton of skill on the top three lines, so I just want to try to provide as much leadership as I can,” he said. “The biggest adjustment for me is that it’s a totally new system. So I’m just trying to learn as quickly as I can and adjust.”
Having the Sutter family genes doesn’t hurt, either. Brett is the cousin of the Hurricanes’ Brandon Sutter, the son of Calgary general manager Daryl Sutter and the nephew of Calgary head coach Brent Sutter.
“He’s obviously got the family genes going for him, and you can’t minimize the importance of that,” Karmanos said. “With that comes an awareness of the game.”
“I grew up around the game of hockey. I spent a lot of time watching what they do, and following their lead helps,” Sutter said. “Always having someone there to talk to that has that familiar ground is probably the biggest asset.”
Sutter made headlines for the wrong reason a few weeks ago after a rookie party in Arizona when he was arrested for assault. Karmanos called this a “non-issue,” which appears to be the sentiment around the organization. Sutter himself sounded exhausted over the media attention given to the situation but made it clear that the incident does not represent who he is.
“It got blown way out of proportion. He certainly has no history of behaving this way,” Karmanos said. “He’s a good kid. We know the extended family very well, and it’s not the least of our concerns that we’ve picked up a kid with issues.”
“I think anybody that knows me knows that I’m a good person. That’s not the kind of stuff that follows me around,” Sutter said. “I just want to show everyone what I’m about, what my true character is. I’m just trying to forget about it, play hockey and move on.”
Wiping the slate clean with a new team may be the best remedy for Sutter, not to mention seeing regular playing time. Karmanos added that it might also help to be out of the watchful eye of close relatives.
“Playing in an organization where your father is the GM and your uncle is the coach brings a lot of pressure on top of what kids normally face in learning how to be a pro,” he said. “We are hopeful that escaping some of that will help his growth as a player. There really is no pressure for him here. It made sense for Brett to get a fresh start and make his own way.”
After a week in Charlotte, Sutter has a couple of games and a few practices under his belt. In time, he hopes to find his game that saw him notch 11 points (4g, 7a) in 13 playoff games with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat just a season ago.
“His adjustment right now is just getting used to the new surroundings and the new system,” Daniels said. “As I told him, ‘Don’t overanalyze the system. Just make sure you’re competing every night.’ And he’s been doing that, and I think he’ll get better every day.”