Following an injury-shortened season, Brandon Sutter
put up career-high numbers in 2009-10. But head coach Paul Maurice had a different idea for him last season.
Maurice had Sutter center the third line, and he often matched up that line with the opposing team’s top line, giving Sutter and his linemates the challenge of stymieing the most prolific scorers in the league.
As a result of his new shutdown role, Sutter’s offensive production decreased by 11 points (14g, 15a vs. 21g, 19a in 2009-10). However, Sutter thrived in becoming more of a defensive forward, finishing at plus-13, compared to a minus-1 in the season prior.
“I like playing against the other team’s better players,” he said. “That’s a challenge for me and my linemates, but at the same time you want to be offensive and score goals. But it doesn’t always matter who you’re playing against – you just got to go out and play.”
Sutter, listed last year at 6-foot-3 and 183 pounds, said that he feels a difference on the ice already this season. (New measurements will be made on Friday, when the team has physicals.)
“I feel a bit bigger and stronger on the ice, and that will help me,” he said. “Every year you try to get more complete – try to find ways to do more at every position and in every place of the game.”
In preparation for training camp – now just a couple of days away – and the season ahead, Sutter has been taking part in the informal offseason workouts.
“We use these informal skates as a bit of conditioning,” he said. “Most of us have been skating for a couple of months now, getting our timing back and shaking off all the rust.”
That rust built up over another long summer, one that saw Sutter sign a new three-year deal with the team that drafted him 11th overall in 2007. But assessing the team’s performance last season, Sutter saw positives, despite missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.
“Last year we came so close to making the playoffs that it’s hard to say we had a bad year. Obviously if you don’t make it, you feel like you failed,” he said. “But we’ve got some fresh faces here, and I’m excited about it. I think it will be a nice change.”
Last year, the Canes traveled overseas for a pre-season matchup in Russia and two regular season games in Finland, followed by an extended Western road swing. This season, even though the team plays its first 6 of 8 games on the road, Sutter said he is happy to stay in North America.
“It didn’t really hurt us much, standings-wise,” he said, in reference to coming home from the road stretch at 4-3. “But I think it’s nice for guys to come here and get settled, especially those with kids and families.
“They don’t have to worry about the mental part about being away from home. It’s nice just to be here.”
Surely, the Caniacs feel the same.Other tidbits from the informal workouts at the RBC Center:
- The fans’ first chance to catch Brandon Sutter in game action before the start of the 2011-12 season will be this Sunday, Sept. 18 during the annual Red-White game, a part of the Caniac Carnival.
- Bryan Allen, Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal were among the skaters on the ice this morning.
- Mike Murphy and Justin Peters manned the creases today, and each made saves during the 40-second 3-on-3s that received hoops and hollers from a few guys.
- The skate wrapped up early today, right after 10:30 a.m., in preparation for CanesVision’s last day of on-ice shoots.