Skip to Main Content

Ward fired as coach of Flames, replaced by Darryl Sutter

Two-time Cup winner won't join Calgary until Monday, assistant to run bench this weekend @NHLdotcom

Geoff Ward was fired as coach of the Calgary Flames on Thursday and replaced by Darryl Sutter.

Sutter coached the Flames for three seasons from 2002-06 and was their general manager from 2003-10. He had been an adviser to the Anaheim Ducks coaching staff since July 2019, and last coached in the NHL for the Los Angeles Kings in 2016-17, his last of six seasons with them. The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.

"I think there's a nucleus of nine or 10 players (on the Flames) that are really good players in the National Hockey League," Sutter said Friday. "From a coaching standpoint, that jumps out at you always. When you have a top goalie (Jacob Markstrom) and two or three top defensemen and you're strong down the middle of the ice, you have a recipe for winning. That's what appealed to me the most."

Sutter, who is in Viking, Alberta, said the earliest he can join the Flames is Monday but expects to run practice Tuesday. The 62-year-old said he's delayed because he needs to go thorough the NHL COVID-19 testing protocol and has some business he needs to take care of at his farm.

General manager Brad Treliving said assistant Ryan Huska will coach Calgary when it plays at the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, NHL.TV) and at home against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday. Sutter's first game will likely be at home against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. 

"In watching our team over the last several days, weeks, I felt strongly that this time right now was a time for action," Treliving said. "We've been underperforming. We've been inconsistent. For us to be able to bring in Darryl, in my mind one of our game's greatest coaches, most successful coaches, and the biggest strengths I see from Darryl is the ability to be very clear."

The Flames (11-11-2), who have won two of three games after winning one of their previous six, defeated the Ottawa Senators 7-3 on Thursday.

"Deep down, I believe it's a good hockey club," Sutter said. "The blueprint is there. Now you have to take it and build it. The blueprint is there. The goalie and the top-end defensemen and the centermen are there. That's what it takes. You win championships down the middle of the ice and the goalie, right on down. I believe that. We'll build around that."

The Flames are fifth in the Scotia North Division, two points behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens. The top four teams make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Most guys know what Darryl's all about," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "I think he's a proven winner. In L.A. he had two Cups. He's been to the Stanley Cup Final here in Calgary. If you're not going to listen to a guy who's a proven winner like that, you shouldn't be in the game. We all respect him. We all know what he's going to bring and he's going to bring that intensity and we're looking forward to it."

Ward was hired by Calgary as an associate coach in 2018-19 and was promoted to coach Nov. 29, 2019 after Bill Peters resigned. It was Ward's first job as an NHL coach; he was 35-26-5.

"I don't put all this on Geoff," Treliving said. "... I just felt strongly over the course of the last little bit the team was underperforming. It needed this change. This change was required. Not only was a change required, Darryl was required. We needed Darryl. This team needs Darryl and what he can bring."

The Flames were 24-15-3 in 42 games last season after Ward took over and finished eighth in the Western Conference with a .564 points percentage (36-27-7). They defeated the Winnipeg Jets in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, then lost to the Dallas Stars in six games in the Western Conference First Round.

Sutter was 634-467-83 with 101 ties in 17 seasons as coach with the Flames, Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. He was 107-73-15 with 15 ties with Calgary and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, when it lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games after leading the series 3-2.

"For me it's unfinished business," Sutter said. "It's still really clear in my mind. ... Thinking about it on the flight home from Tampa of the players and the owners and how much that resonated with me and stayed in my mind. I'm thrilled to be back working with Brad and working with this group. ... I've been fortunate to stay in the game the last couple years with Anaheim and working with their coaching staff and Bob Murray. I'm ready to go and looking forward to it."

Sutter played 406 NHL games as a forward for the Blackhawks.

"When I look at this group, they're a very intriguing group because there's a lot of good players," he said. "They just have to adjust their style a little bit to do what it takes to win, and we'll do that."

Ward is the second NHL coach fired this season. The Canadiens fired Claude Julien on Feb. 24, also after playing the Senators. He was replaced by Dominque Ducharme. staff writer Tim Campbell and independent correspondent Aaron Vickers contributed to this report

View More