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PREVIEW: Calgary Flames out to prove selves for new coach vs. Oilers

Apr 2, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter makes a point in the first period of the game against the Arizona Coyotes at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter makes a point in the first period of the game against the Arizona Coyotes at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

New Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, who was hired after Geoff Ward was dismissed late Thursday night, is returning with a mandate to steer the team in the right direction.

And now, with Sutter in possession of a three-year contract, the Flames players head into Saturday’s clash at the Edmonton Oilers knowing the onus is on them.

“They’re [a] very intriguing group because there’s a lot of good players,” said Sutter, who was coach of the Flames for three seasons and general manager from the 2003-04 campaign through Dec. 28, 2010. “They just have to adjust their style a little bit to do what it takes to win, and we’ll do that.”

The Flames, who are coming off Thursday’s 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators, have been a middling, inconsistent team. Thus the call was made to bring back Sutter, whose no-nonsense approach was a key to Calgary’s trip to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final and a pair of championships with the Los Angeles Kings.

“The message is, the coach isn’t going anywhere,” general manager Brad Treliving said. “This change was required. This team needs Darryl and what he can bring.”

Sutter won’t be behind the bench for the Oilers game, nor Sunday’s home clash with the Senators while he goes through COVID-19 testing and protocols. Assistant coach Ryan Huska will serve that role.

The Oilers expect their rivals to have extra motivation while attempting to impress the new boss.

“You’re gonna get an excited Calgary team,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who will look to avoid being held without a point for a fourth consecutive game for the first time in his career. “You’re gonna get a team that’s playing with lots of jump, lots of energy, lots of intensity. I’m sure we can expect a physical game. … I’m sure he’s gonna want to make his mark right away.”

Read More: Calgary Flames fire coach Geoff Ward, rehire Darryl Sutter

Sutter is known for being an old-school coach, but he is more in step with the evolution of the game than credited. He’s also been successful, with a winning record in 15 of 18 seasons he’s coached in the league. His task will be to stabilize the organization that now has had five coaches since the start of the 2015-16 season.

“There’s a group of five or six players that have started their career here and has been here through all those coaches,” Sutter said. “What’s important for them to know now is that I’m here with them and I’m going to stick with them and whatever works best for them is what I’m going to do.”

Related: NHL games today – Key dates, preseason and 2021-22 regular season schedule

The players are well aware what’s at stake going forward.

“I’m not proud to say I’ve been here so long and we’ve had so many coaches,” center Mikael Backlund said. “It means we haven’t been successful enough.”

The Flames will be meeting a hungry Oilers team, which had won 11 of 13 games before losing three straight clashes with the Toronto Maple Leafs by a combined score of 13-1.

Even so, coach Dave Tippett lit into his players during Friday’s practice for their lack of execution during drills.

“We had to get back to work,” said Tippett, whose team will honor the late Walter Gretzky — father to Wayne Gretzky — with a decal on their helmets. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted for three games in a row. There are things we addressed in a meeting with some video and things we unwanted to address on the ice, so we need to get our team back heading the right direction.”

Read More: Walter Gretzky, NHL legend Wayne’s father, dies at 82

Even so, it will be an interesting study to see how the Oilers react amidst their adversity.

“You can feel whatever you want, as long as you channel it the right way,” McDavid said. “Everyone handles scenarios differently. Everyone handles losing differently. I think, ultimately, it pushes us and drives us forward. That sense of urgency and desperation has to be back in [our] game like it was in February. It’s something we lost a little bit and have to get it back.”

–Field Level Media

Sports Deaths in 2021

Howard Schnellenberger (Miami Hurricanes Head Coach)

Miami, FL – Coach Howard Schnellenberger of the University of Miami Hurricanes during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions in November 1981 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Schnellenberger died on March 27th, 2021. He was 87.

Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Lakers)

New York, NY — Los Angeles Lakers forward Elgin Baylor (22) shoots against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor died of natural causes on March 22, 2021. He was 86.

'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler (Boxer)

Las Vegas, NV – John Mugabi and Marvin Hagler fight for the WBA, WBC, and IBF Middleweight titles on March 10, 1986 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hagler won the fight with an 11th round knockout. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Hagler died unexpectedly on March 13. He was 66.

Rheal Cormier (MLB Pitcher)

San Francisco, CA – Pitcher Rheal Cormier #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the MLB game at Pac Bell Park on August 9, 2003 in San Francisco, California. The Phillies won 8-6. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Cormier died on March 8th. He was 53.

Mark Pavelich (1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team)

Lake Placid, NY – The USA Team celebrates their 4-3 victory over Russia in the semi-final of the Ice Hockey event at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, USA. The game was dubbed “The Miracle on Ice”. The USA went on to win the gold medal by defeat. (Getty Images)

Pavelich died on March 5th. He was 63.

Joe Altobelli (MLB Manager)

Los Angeles, CA – San Francisco Giants manager Joe Altobelli argues with an umpire during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

Altobelli died on March 3rd. He was 88.

Irv Cross (Broadcaster/NFL Defensive Back)

Pasadena, CA, USA – CBS broadcaster Irv Cross (left) interviews NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cross died on February 28th. He was 81.

Vincent Jackson (NFL Wide Receiver)

Tampa, FL – Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) is introduced as he runs out of the tunnel before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium on September 13, 2015. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson died on February 15th. He was 38.

Marty Schottenheimer (NFL Head Coach)

St. Louis, MO – Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer on the sidelines against the New York Jets at Busch Stadium during the 1991 preseason. Credit: Herb Weitman-USA TODAY NETWORK

Schottenheimer died on February 8th. He was 77.

Pedro Gomez (MLB Reporter)

MESA, AZ – Perdo Gomez of ESPN stands in the stands prior to the game between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants at Hohokam Stadium on March 3, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

Gomez died on February 7th. He was 58.

Leon Spinks (Boxer)

Heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, works out at the Fifth Street Gym in Miami on Jan. 13, 1987. (photo by Tim Chapman)

Spinks died on February 5th. He was 67.

John Chaney (Temple Owls)

LANDOVER, MD – Head coach John Chaney of the Temple Owls looks on from the bench against the Georgetown Hoyas during an NCAA College basketball game circa 1995 at the US Airways Arena in Landover, Maryland. Chaney coached at Temple from 1982-2006. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Chaney died on January 29th. He was 89.

George Armstrong (Toronto Maple Leafs)

TORONTO, ON – Former Leafs Captain George Armstrong waves to the crowd beside (L-R) Red Kelly and David Keon during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Leafs 64′ Stancley Cup before action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre February 8, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Armstrong died on January 24th. He was 90.

Hawthorne Wingo (New York Knicks)

Atlanta, GA – New York Knicks forward Hawthorne Wingo (43) in action against the Atlanta Hawks at the Omni. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Wingo died on January 23rd. He was 73.

Hank Aaron (Atlanta Braves)

Atlanta, GA, – Atlanta Braves outfielder Hank Aaron (44) celebrates after breaking the all-time career home run record previously held by Babe Ruth at Fulton County Stadium against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron died on January 22nd. He was 86.

Ted Thompson (Green Bay Packers)

Arlington, TX – Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy (left) and general manager Ted Thompson after the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson died on January 20th. He was 68.

Don Sutton (MLB Pitcher)

PITTSBURGH, PA – Pitcher Don Sutton of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1977 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Sutton died on January 18th. He was 75.

Tommy Lasorda (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles Dodgers former manager Tommy Lasorda in attendance as the Los Angeles Dodgers face off against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles CA. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Copyright u00a9 2007 Gary A. Vasquez

Lasorda died January 7th. He was 93.

John Muckler (Edmonton Oilers)

BOSTON, MA – Glen Sather head coach and assistant coach John Muckler of the Edmonton Oilers direct action from behind bench against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Muckler died on January 4th. He was 86.

Paul Westphal (NBA Head Coach)

PHOENIX, AZ – As part of their 50th season celebration the Phoenix Suns honor former coach Paul Westphal before the game against the Houston Rockets on January 12, 2018 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Westphal died on January 2nd. He was 70.

Floyd Little (Denver Broncos)

CINCINNATI, OH – Running back Floyd Little #44 of the Denver Broncos runs upfield during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Riverfront Stadium on October 8, 1972 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Broncos 21-10. (Photo by Clifton Boutelle/Getty Images)

Little died on January 1st. He was 78.

Howard Schnellenberger (Miami Hurricanes Head Coach)

Miami, FL – Coach Howard Schnellenberger of the University of Miami Hurricanes during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions in November 1981 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Schnellenberger died on March 27th, 2021. He was 87.