There's little doubt Hockey Canada is going to pull out all stops this year in an attempt to regain past glory at the tournament it once owned -- the World Junior Championship.
The initial phase in that process was the hiring of a coach with previous success at the tournament -- Brent Sutter.
Hockey Canada on Wednesday announced Sutter would coach Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, which starts Dec. 26 in Malmo, Sweden.
"We need to get back to a focus on our teams and our players and our style of play and less of a focus on other countries," Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada's senior director of hockey operations, said during a conference call Wednesday. "The focus in short-term competition is important. Brent has that experience and we're pleased to have him."
2014 WJC SCHEDULE
Germany vs. Canada
Norway vs. Russia
Czech Republic vs. USA
Switzerland vs. Sweden
Slovakia vs. Germany
Finland vs. Norway
USA vs. Slovakia
Sweden vs. Finland
Canada vs. Czech Republic
Russia vs. Switzerland
Germany vs. USA
Norway vs. Sweden
Czech Republic vs. Germany
Russia vs. Finland
Canada vs. Slovakia
Switzerland vs. Norway
Slovakia vs. Czech Republic
Sweden vs. Russia
USA vs. Canada
Finland vs. Switzerland
This will be Sutter's third stint as Canada's WJC coach. He previously coached Canada to gold medals at the 2005 and 2006 World Juniors, and Canada didn't lose a game in either tournament.
"The two things that stuck out more than anything [in 2005 and 2006] were the leadership of both teams and just the presence of that team element in everything we did," Sutter said. "It was very high, and they just wanted to win. The Russians had [Evgeni] Malkin and [Alex] Ovechkin and those types of players, but we had guys who just did not want those guys to be better than them on a game-to-game basis. Really, those were two easy teams to coach because they were so highly motivated."
In 2005, Canada's Patrice Bergeron led the tournament with 13 points, including five goals, in six games, capped by a 6-1 defeat of Russia in the gold-medal game. Canada beat Russia 5-0 in the 2006 championship game.
Sutter, the former New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames coach, currently serves as the coach, general manager and owner of the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. He'll be assisted on the bench by Gatineau Olympiques coach Benoît Groulx and Kootenay Ice coach Ryan McGill.
"Things happen quickly [in a short tournament]," Sutter said. "It's 14 days from start to finish to get yourself to the gold-medal game, so you just have to focus on one game at a time and the players must be mentally strong. It's kind of similar to a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the further you go into the tournament, the tougher it gets. You need to have a lot of character players on your team."
Canada finished fourth at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia, marking the first time Canada failed to medal at the tournament since 1998. Canada hasn't won gold since the 2009 tournament.
Sutter was asked if he felt it is unfair to label the WJC as a gold-or-bust event for Canada now that every country seems to field exceptionally talented teams each year.
"Obviously, that just goes with the territory being a Canadian," Sutter said. "There's a tremendous amount of parity now at the world-junior level and also at the under-18 level. We just have to make sure we focus in on the process to get to where we want to get to and not focus in on the ultimate goal."
Sutter said the tournament is a lot more competitive and balanced now than when he last coached.
"There's a lot of parity and it's tough now," he said. "It's a lot different now than it was back in 2005 and '06. We had pretty dominant teams through those World Juniors, but it has certainly changed over the years.
"We all know what the ultimate goal is going to be or what we want it to be, but there's a process we need to go through. There are other countries that have great teams, too, and at the end of the day, one team will win. If you look at the last four years at the national level, it was a shift here or a period there that was the difference in winning or not winning a gold or getting to the gold-medal game."
At the 2013 tournament, Canada entered the medal round unbeaten, but lost 5-1 to the United States in the semifinals, and then fell 6-5 in overtime against Russia in the bronze-medal game.
Canada will be in Group A at the 2014 WJC, which runs through Jan. 5, 2014, along with the United States, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany. Group B will consist of Sweden, Finland, Russia, Switzerland and Norway.
Also, it was revealed that London Knights coach Dale Hunter will fill the same role with Canada's team for the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament. He'll be assisted by Halifax Mooseheads coach Dominique Ducharme and D.J. Smith, coach of the Oshawa Generals.
The elite under-18 tournament will be held Aug. 5-10 in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Slovakia.
In addition to announcing the coaching staff for the World Junior Championship, Hockey Canada named Ryan Jankowski as the new head scout of the men's Program of Excellence. Jankowski spent the last three seasons as an amateur scout with the Montreal Canadiens after serving five seasons as assistant general manager for the New York Islanders.
The Program of Excellence also announced its management group that will oversee hockey operations -- Joel Bouchard, general manager of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada; Phoenix Coyotes assistant GM Sean Burke; Kelowna Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton; and London Knights GM Mark Hunter. That group will work directly with Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey operations and national teams Brad Pascall and Salmond in overseeing operations of the under-17, under-18 and under-20 programs.